Review: Girl in Progress
PLOT: Ansiedad is a young girl with plenty on her shoulders. She is unpopular albeit bright, and she has found herself in a position where she must take care of her wild child mother Grace. When she learns the term “coming of age” from her teacher, she takes it upon herself to speed up the process only to learn that growing up can come with a price. Will this GIRL IN PROGRESS learn a lesson or two along the way?
REVIEW: In GIRL IN PROGRESS, Eva Mendes plays Grace, a single mother working two jobs who has no time to help her daughter grow up. In fact, her daughter Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) has taken it upon herself to be the mother. When Grace gets home from a date with a married man (Mathew Modine), it is her teenage girl who tucks her in at night. She is a child who is desperate to grow up and get away from dear old mom. When one of Ansiedad’s teacher’s introduces the term “coming of age,” the impressionable girl gathers information from every John Hughes movie, young adult novel and anything else about leaving childhood behind. With this information, she develops a plan to enter adulthood, only she doesn’t factor in the consequences of trying to grow up too quickly.
Patricia Riggin paints an occasionally sweet yet strangely generic story of a mother and daughter who fail to connect. There is a sadness lingering in the humor as this young girl innocently plans her own downfall, which includes losing her virginity and dumping her overweight friend. At a time where bullying is in the public eye more than it ever was before, and social network sites can be used for humiliation, GIRL IN PROGRESS feels downright innocent at times. Even with the very adult situations Ansiedad is putting herself through, her naiveté is near fantasy. Is it possible that this girl who sees the mess her mother has made of her own life would really plan out such a painful progression? Our heroine seems much too bright in the beginning to commit to such a miserable fate. Even in her desperation to get out of her mother’s “care,” it was hard to believe that this bright young girl would lose all sense and think her ridiculous scheme would work in her favor.
No matter how difficult it was at times to believe in Ansiedad’s motivation, it certainly helped that Ramirez gives such a good performance. She is a charming young actress who is credible enough, at least as much as she can be given what she has to work with. GIRL IN PROGRESS all too often condescends to what its characters are going through. Being a teen is tough enough, yet watching her continually make inappropriate decisions is slightly frustrating. In the real world her plan would get her in much more serious trouble than this would suggest. Even when she explains her intentions to one of her teachers (Patricia Arquette), you have to wonder why the hell her mentor doesn’t step up and help her out a bit. Ms. Arquette – who is also quite good – is also trapped in a role that leaves you questioning her actions. Why does it take so long for her to really step in and do something? However, in today’s educational system, her reaction may be dead-on.
Eva Mendes is a phenomenal beauty. And she happens to be a very funny and charming actress. As Grace, she is written a little too similar to the mother in FREAKY FRIDAY after the change. She is unreliable when it comes to her daughter. Even at her job she is certainly liked by her customers but not for her employment skills - she is a single mother working as a waitress and a housekeeper as well. It may not be that unbelievable that a mother would be this disassociated from their child's lives so it is easier to digest her faults. Mendes is surprisingly sympathetic as a woman balancing two jobs, a married boyfriend and a young girl she can’t take care of. She is a parent with good intentions that fails to exhibit good behavior. It is for Mendes and Ramirez that GIRL IN PROGRESS offers some satisfaction. The two actresses are able to carry the movie farther than one would expect.
Much like the mother portrayed in the film, GIRL has the best of intentions. Perhaps it may even offer a conversation starter for a mother and daughter who don’t necessarily see eye to eye. Yet as dark as the subject matter sometimes is, it tends to simply treat teen rebellion as a cliché. The myriad of problems teenagers have – as well as parents of teens – is handled with kid gloves only hinting at the more serious issues. While GIRL IN PROGRESS isn’t a bad film - thanks to Mendes and Ramirez and a little bit of heart - it just isn’t good enough to really say anything all that meaningful about the task of becoming an adult in a challenging world.