Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Review Date: October 26, 2002
Director: Patricia Cardoso
Writer: Josefina Lopez, George LaVoo
Producers: George LaVoo, Effie Brown
America Ferrera as Ana
Lupe Ontiveros as Carmen
Ingrid Oliu as Estela
An 18-year old Mexican American girl whose family isn't exactly rolling around in money is relegated to taking a dinky job at her sister's sewing factory alongside her overbearing mom. But when the possibility of a scholarship to Columbia University provides her with new hope, it's up to mom and the rest of her relatives to once again, instill her with doubts about her future.
I haven't seen MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING yet (don't ask), but after watching this flick with a lady friend of mine, she remarked how much it reminded her of that obscenely popular movie. Whether or not the films have much in common is not for me to say, but coming from an ethnic background myself, I did find myself relating to much of the "quirky" (read: dysfunctional) behavior of many of this film's protagonists. The mother in particular is someone to whom I can literally relate as someone I know all too well (not my mom, but someone else's mother who fits her to a tee) and a person whose good intentions are almost always overwritten by her lousy communications skills. This is the type of woman who will tell you that you're "ugly" and "fat" to your face, but really she's only trying to prevent you from getting hurt by others...thanks mom! If the "guilty treatment" is something that your parents use in abundance, this lady is sure to strike a chord with you as well. But the film is mostly about the main girl (yup, the chick with the curves aka a plumpy Michelle Rodriguez), as played by America Ferrera (in her first film role), and she is engaging enough of a character to keep things afloat most of the way. Yeah, the movie itself is ultimately too short, doesn't truly delve into as many of the forked situations as I'd hoped (I wanted to know more about the somewhat absent dad, the sister and the boy with whom a relationship is developed) and does go through some of the typical "coming of age" stuff (they might as well have played the "Dawson's Creek" theme song during the girl's ultimate...deflowering), but it was nice to see an atypical family unit (Mexican-American), it was authentic all the way and it concluded on an open end, which is the type of finish that I generally always appreciate.
The film is also a very good viewing alternative for young women, especially when it comes to the lead character's inspirational acceptance of her overweight figure. In this day and age, in which certain "role models" a la Christina Aguilera are strutting their skinny half-naked sleazy asses across your children's television screens, it's nice to see someone "normal" who propagates the idea of one being comfortable with oneself, without the celery stick figure or two-bit hooker outfits. Some of the actors do, however, come across as first-timers with "off" deliveries here and there, but the main two ladies were solid and believable throughout, and in a movie based mostly on their back-and-forth struggle for acceptance, that's the most important element anyway. I also really liked the film's soundtrack, with a nice mix of different Latin tunes, its humorous moments, especially all of the sarcasm, as well as the film's emotional bits. Yes, many of the themes touched upon here can easily be telegraphed to past movies (teacher helping the disadvantaged student, ethnic "old shool" parents satisfied with their daughter only if they get married, working class adults removing their clothing for laughs, etc...), but the film doesn't feel fake, doesn't feel like a total rehash and ultimately does convey its message about the acceptance of oneself and family relations quite effectively. I would definitely recommend that all girls from the age of 14-21 see this movie, since it's likely to strike a number of relatable chords with them (granted, I'm not a woman-- but I cry like one sometimes), or anyone who can appreciate the trials that one must go through when living with a domineering mom.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian