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How could I be so blessed with 2 Mexican treasures within weeks of each other? After the heady romanticism and visual artistry of Julie Taymor's `Frida,' I was hardly prepared to see another arresting, Mexican melodrama, Patricia Cardoso's `Real Women Have Curves.' Every woman who thinks about her weight should see this movie-it will make you a convert to the humane notion that all bodies are beautiful. And it will reveal a deeply humane culture at the same time.
Naturally beautiful and full-bodied actress America Ferrera plays Ana, a Mexican American whose graduation and scholarship to Columbia University threaten the family's unity and the control by her mother, who tells stories of runaway girls with disastrous ends and the admonition, `That's what happens to girls who don't listen to their mothers.'
Like teenagers in any culture, Ana is trying to break away from a domineering culture and mother while she also achieves a balanced acceptance of her zaftig body. The scene where she and the other seamstresses in her sister's sweat shop remove their outer clothes to escape the heat and eventually admire their bulging, stretch-marked bodies is about as loving and lyrical as any other I have seen where Hollywood's obsession with world-class beauty is obliterated by the sheer attractiveness of women celebrating the imperfections of their bodies.
Equally so, when Ana loses her virginity, she tells her lover,
"Turn the lights on. I want you to see me. See, this is what I look like." He responds, "You're not fat. You're beautiful.' It's easy to see why this film won awards at Cannes for audience appreciation and ensemble acting. It is a hymn to a culture that values family and a girl who values herself.
REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (2002) ***1/2 America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, Ingrid Oliu, George Lopez, Brian Sites, Soledad St. Hilaire, Dale E. Turner. Above average indie diamond in the rough slice of life portrayal of a Mexican American teenager (Ferrara in a remarkable acting debut) trying to cope with her dream to attend college and her quarrelsome relationship with her loving but problematic mother (Ontiveros who gives a beautifully modulated turn) whose own insecurities and frustrations are taken out on her zaftig daughter. Funny, poignant and ultimately a triumph in full-bodied (no pun intended) protagonists without compromising it's clear headed vision of how society and culture myopically decides what is pleasant to the eye (or acceptable for that matter). Finally a film that portrays Latinos in a positive light by not making it a racial film' either. The screenplay by George LaVoo and Josefina Lopez (adapting her play) offers insight to familiar subject matter but with a refreshing focus on character development by not compromising it's strong message: to accept one self is to love one self. (Dir: Patricia Cardoso)
Thanks to a beautifully subtle script, equally subtle direction and
brilliant performances from all the leads, Real Women Have Curves comes
across as a superbly soulful and insightful slice of life. The always
Lupe Ontiveros is maddeningly tragic as the selfish mother who stubbornly
refuses to see beyond her own needs, and America Ferrera blazes across the
screen in blissful defiance - the smart girl who instinctively knows she's
more than just the sum of her body parts and finds the strength inside
herself to back up that belief with or without her mother's blessing.
Kudos to everyone connected with this enlightened and enlightening movie.
I was very impressed with this movie. First of all, it's very funny. It's
definitely a feel-good movie, but at the same time doesn't resort to campy
sentimentality. It's also a film that escapes from the stereotypes and
depicts Latinos like they're meant to be depicted. One realistic touch that
I appreciated was that half the time the characters would speak Spanish and
the other half they'd speak English. That is how it seems to be in most
Latin-American families. You rarely hear English spoken 100 percent of the
time, unless both the parents and children are from the states. The
director didn't worry if American audiences would be too lazy to read the
subtitles. What's the big deal about reading subtitles? I'm taking a class
in International Film, so I always cringe at the fact that when I tell other
students about the class, their immediate reactions are, "God, you gotta
read subtitles?" I'm proud to be an American, but at times like that my
pride gradually lessens.
It's about time a film is released in which the main character is not only female, but a slightly overweight female. Because, and those hypnotized by the media be prepared to gasp, not all women are a size 3! Who's to say that a woman can't be pretty while having a few extra pounds? I think America Ferrera is a very pretty girl, not to mention she has charm. In everyday society, there are overweight guys and girls who have dating lives! In this film, her eventual love interest is a skinny white guy. That's not unusual. Unfortunately, media possesses us into assuming that the only types of relationships involve pretty guys and pretty girls. I'm sure even in California that isn't always the truth, despite its reputation for being Land of the Beautiful People.
I like how the film depicts the girl's mom and her hypocritical attitudes towards her daughter's obesity. Throughout the film, I never understood why her much more overweight mother was criticizing her daughter for being a big fat pig. But this happens in real life! Later in the film, the mother even says, "I'm married. I have the right to be fat." Parents can have those attitudes, unfortunately. And like in the film, they don't hesitate to humiliate their sons and daughters in public for having a certain problem like obesity.
The acting is topnotch. Lupe Ontiveros doesn't always receive decent roles in American film, and it's because of that many American audiences aren't familiar with her. That's too bad, because she's really a terrific actress and in "Real Women" I finally did get a chance to see her in a decent role. The ironic thing is she's often cast as Hispanic characters (usually maids) who have just came to this country, yet she was born in the states and hardly has an accent. Newcomer Ferrera is also incredible, and I hope to see her in future projects. She really has much potential, and if Hollywood studios decide to remove their heads from their behinds and cast men and women who aren't less than 120 pounds (in roles other than the "fat slob") she'll become a rising star. Finally, I was genuinely impressed with George Lopez, who actually plays a serious role, never once drifting into comic territory. It's rare to find a comedian who has just as much talent at acting as being funny, so it's nice to discover that George may be one of those people.
If you want to see a good, solid, entertaining low-budget indie gem that'll make you think and make you laugh, then this is definitely the film for you! It's one of the most original films I've seen come out in a while.
My score: 8 (out of 10)
The movie Real Women Have Curves is a 2002 comedy directed by Patricia
Cardoso. Ana (America Ferrera) is a young and smart girl from a Mexican
immigrant family, who graduates from the famous Beverly High School of
California, and gets accepted in Columbia University with a full
scholarship. Controlled by her mother Mrs. Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros), who
strongly believes that a girl's fate is to learn to work hard and learn
to take care of her future husband. Raul Garcia (Jorge Cervera Jr.)
Ana's father and Mr. Guzman (George Lopez) Ana's English teacher play
wonderful mediators and defend Ana to go to college.
This is a movie for everyone to see. Children can confront parents in laughter, while enjoying this together. It reveals the constant battle between mother and daughter, but most of all; it shows how challenging it is for smart children from uneducated families to pursue a higher education.
Although the comedian George Lopez, from the George Lopez show, is not an actor, he gives a high performance in this movie playing the role of the teacher who tries by all means to see one of his smartest students succeeding in what she deserves, despite the character hostile of Lupe Ontiveros, who sees her daughter going against the value of their traditions.
This movie makes me think of the Cider House Rules, in which Dr. Larch (Michael Caine) always reminds Homer Well (Toby McGuire), his traditions and what he comes to accomplish in life. Like America Ferrera, it is hard for Toby McGuire to break the rules, and leave the orphanage to discover what is out there for him.
Patricia Cardoso increases the suspense in this movie with the motif "red color," which appears every time America Ferrera's future is being discussed. She makes this screenplay so funny and devoid of bad scenes or language. This is what Robert Ebert from the Chicago Tribune calls "enormously entertaining for moviegoers of any age."
`Real Women Have Curves' feels a bit like a modern ethnic version of `Georgy
Girl,' featuring a free-spirited young woman named Ana who doesn't quite fit
the mold of what society believes a woman should look like.
Ana is a somewhat `overweight' high school senior living in East LA who has dreams of being the first person in her family to go to college. Her parents, however, have other plans for her life, which basically involve marriage, motherhood and a job working in her older sister's dress factory. Ana faces the struggle common to many young people who happen to be first-generation Americans: should she conform to the old-fashioned customs and traditions of her family or should she set out to make it on her own with all the advantages and opportunities available to people in this society? `Real Women Have Curves' avoids becoming a culture clash cliché through its keen observation of the minutiae of everyday life. Unlike most films, `Real Women' actually explores the day-to-day struggles of the working class in this country. The people in this film worry about whether or not they will be able to make a go of their businesses, whether or not their bills will get paid, whether or not a promising young student will be allowed to go to college and make something of herself or just end up as a cog in the system that absorbs so many of the underclass. It's these slice-of-life details that make the film interesting.
Ana's main foil is her own mother, who believes not only that her daughter is overweight and, thereby, ruining her chances to make an acceptable marriage, but that she must forego college in order to help with the family business. The majority of the conflict in the film occurs between these two women, both equally hardheaded, moody and determined to get what they want. America Ferrara as Ana, Lupe Ontiveras as her mother and Ingrid Oliu as Estela, her hardworking, levelheaded sister, create characters who are believable, subtle and instantly recognizable. Writers Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo have a sharp ear for the way people actually speak. Director Patricia Cardoso doesn't try to impress us with fancy camera angles or clever cutting. Instead, she lets the story develop naturally, allowing us to eavesdrop on a milieu that may seem strange to some of us. Cardoso knows full well that the universal nature of what she is showing us will draw us into the story and these characters' lives. It's nice, too, to see a film in which the young people are spending their time trying to get into good colleges instead of indulging in all the high school hijinks and hoopla we usually see in more mainstream movies these days.
True, the movie does sacrifice some of its verisimilitude by trying a bit too hard to be a `feel good' experience. One occasionally senses a certain straining for the upbeat moral message, as when Ana convinces her coworkers to strip down to their undies in the factory as a statement about how women should not be ashamed of their bodies just because they aren't a size six. But the film more than makes up for that in the unconventional way in which it treats Ana's departure from her mother at the end.
`Real Women Have Curves' is a small movie but a universal one.
I once read about an audition of models for an Armani fashion show. It
appears the Milanese designer was rejecting everyone because he thought
they were too fat to carry his clothes the way he intended. If anyone
reading this comment is friendly with Giorgio, please advise him to
avoid seeing this film. He's liable to have a series of strokes, or
even a fatal heart attack!
What Patricia Cardoso has achieved with this film is to clarify for us that indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that we should not judge the person by the image they project. What might be considered fat and ugly for the same media that only glorify the skinny people that populate the pages of the different fashion magazines, for someone else will be beautiful.
America Ferrera is a revelation. She exudes sweetness and the performance is right on the money. Her dreams to get out of the mediocrity of the factory life her mother wants for her are to be applauded because she has the smarts to make a career for herself and go to college.
The great Lupe Ontiveros plays the mother. It's a shame that this actress haven't been discovered by more directors that will employ her talents in the way she deserves. She can bring so much to a film as proved in other independent films where she has appeared. Wherever she appears one can expect the very best from her.
The rest of the cast is very good. We shall be looking forward to Ms. Cardoso's next venture with the confidence that whatever she undertakes it will be a fun time at the movies.
"Real Women Have Curves" deserves the by-word-of-mouth breakthrough success
earned by "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Both deal with traditional families
coping with a less than compliant young daughter but the differences between
the films are real and this movie is a stunning, attention-grabbing,
beautifully acted tale of coming of age.
Ana (America Ferrara) is graduating high school in L.A. and not just any high school. She's a Latina from a working class family who made it into Beverly Hills H.S. Her favorite teacher urges not only that she attend college but that she apply to Columbia University. She's also what some would describe as full-figured. That's just one of the obsessions of her mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontineros), herself a rather large lady. Incessantly, publicly and crudely hounding her daughter about her weight and other shortcomings, mostly imagined, Carmen can win the annual Witch of the West award with ease.
Ana goes to work - no choice - in her older sister's dress assembly factory. The sister, Estela (Ingrid Oliu), is always short of cash to meet the payroll and expenses as she puts together for $18 each dresses that will sell in haute couture boutiques for $600 (to Ana's politically correct astonishment). Estela is proud of her work and her factory where she employs Carmen and other Latina women who enjoy a ribald and close friendship. The relationship between Ana and Estela grows as the younger woman begins to understand her sister's pride.
Ana has a boyfriend, an Anglo from an affluent family, but director Patricia Cardoso wisely omits any "West Side Story" clash of cultures to focus on the very believable first love experience of a girl raised, as so many young American women are, to hate their bodies if they don't conform to the Cosmo cover model standard.
Ana matures as the story progresses and the relationships between the family members and among the dress factory workers deepen beautifully. Carmen is a problem. Her treatment of Ana is mean, actually abusive. Taking a page from the stereotypical Jewish mom she manufactures symptoms of many diseases with the acting out passion only possible by a person who will see her hundreth birthday. She's not likeable and yet her cruelty is a projection rather than a mask of her deep love for Ana and the family.
Ana and Carmen are characters that could easily have been played as caricature and that invite overacting. Neither happens. The skill of the leading actresses and the firm vision of the director produce believable women at generational loggerheads.
I have rarely been in so engaged an audience as I was today at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. Sighs, laughs, groans, applause at various points - it seemed like this was supposed to be an interactive screening. Everyone walked out smiling.
Ana and her family are Mexican born or Mexican Americans but the depth of this film goes beyond any ethnic association. Where "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" celebrated the characters' ancestry, "Real Women Have Curves" pays homage to the inner strength and genuine beauty of - women! Ethnicity and thinness be damned!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A plus-sized Mexican-American teen(America Ferrera)is troubled between accepting a full scholarship to Columbia University and bowing to the pressure of her mother(Lupe Ontiveros)to work in the sewing sweatshop owned by her sister(Ingrid Oliu). The most memorable scene is no doubt when the half dozen or so workers in the sweatshop strip down to panties and bras in acceptance of their own bodies. George Lopez plays the teacher that helps make the scholarship possible. Also in the cast are Lourdes Perez and Felipe de Alba. Chick flick...duh, I guess so; but interesting anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie had an excellent message: to love your body no matter what your size. I really do believe that ALL women should view themselves as beautiful, be them large or small. However, I feel the script was highly predictable, clichéd, and not very well-written. The actors did a lovely job with what they were given... But the characters' interactions were not very satisfying. The relationships were not developed enough in the film to be believable. Ana and her "abuelito" have a little "moment" at the kitchen table, where he tells her she is his gold. This was cheese and Ana's embarrassment at this comment reflected our own. Ana and her mother were at such odds throughout the ENTIRE film that I wasn't at all moved by her refusal to speak to her at the end. She was so NASTY to her daughter. I don't recall her ever saying anything remotely kind or encouraging. Her character just seemed extremely selfish and unloving. Ana's little romance with Jimmy seems to have been thrown in just as a little gratifying bit for the audience. However, due to the film's rating, we aren't given any nudity to enjoy. My goodness. The script needed much tweaking.
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