New York art dealer Arne Glimcher's first crack at film directing is a florid, high-energy romance about two brothers who flee Cuba in the early 1950s to make it as musicians in the United States. Cynthia Cidre wrote the screenplay adapted from Oscar Hijuelos's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Cesar (Armand Assante) and Nestor Castillo (Antonio Banderas) are popular musicians on Havana's club circuit, but when they make enemies of the wrong people, they are forced to leave for New York City, the moody Nestor leaving behind his true love. In New York, they work as meat-cutters during the day as Cesar tries to organize a band and break into the lively New York music scene. Soon, The Mambo Kings get club bookings and Cesar falls in love with a sharp-tongued cigarette girl, Lanna Lake (Cathy Moriarty), and Nestor with the beautiful Delores Fuentes (Maruschka Detmers), who wants to be a teacher. Cesar concentrates on singing and managing the band, while Nestor plays the trumpet and writes songs of love. All seems to be going well until Cesar antagonizes the moneymen on the Latin nightclub circuit and they finds themselves playing bar mitzvahs. But after they're discovered by Desi Arnaz (Desi Arnaz Jr.), the group is prominently featured on I Love Lucy. Their popularity soars and they cut a successful album called "Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love." Cesar is glorying in his success, but Nestor is disappointed and longs to return to Cuba.
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