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Ana: A Mexican-American Girl With Goals

Author: ggerald from United States
5 May 2005

Ana, the main character of Real Women Have Curves, is a first generation Mexican-American living with her very traditional Mexican family in East Los Angeles. The movie is about the summer after her graduation from high school. She deals with issues having to do with weight, men, her future plans, and her family's customs. The decisions she makes will affect the rest of her life. Her parents think she needs to work and help support the family. Her mother thinks she's too fat. Her Mexican customs seem to be holding her back and Ana has to decide whether to please her family or please herself.

There are many Latin Americans living in the United States today. There are large populations in big cities, like New York City, agricultural states, like North Caroline, and states close to the Mexican border, like Texas. Many, but not all, of these Mexican-Americans work manual labor jobs such as landscaping or fruit and vegetable harvesting. The Mexican way of life although similar in some respects is very different from American way of doing things. For instance religion is a very important factor in the every day life of many people of Mexican descent. Another key custom is the significance of the family unit.

The movie seemed to portray an average Mexican-American family living in the United States quite accurately. Ana's mother kept little statues of certain Saints on a shelf in the kitchen to whom she prayed hoping that they would help her daughters get married. Living with Ana were her mother, Carmen, her father, Raúl, her grandfather, and her sister in her late 20's or early 30's, Estella. Some of Ana's aunts, uncles, and cousins also seemed to be around a lot meaning that they either lived there too or lived in close proximity. Ana was an extraordinary student who worked hard to get into Beverly Hills High School and now that she is graduating her favorite teacher, Mr. Guzman, wants her to continue her education so that she may succeed in life and reach her full potential. She has already received a full scholarship to Columbia University but her parents think it's too far away and that her help is needed to support the family. Her mother opposes her leaving for school the most. She is very traditional and because she started working at the age of 13 she thinks Ana has already been given a break in life. Ana spends her summer working in her sisters dress factory where they are paid only $18 per dress that sells for over $600 in Bloomingdale's. The women's dedicated hard work shows another characteristic of Mexicans while at the same time proving that many times others take advantage of this respectable characteristic.

The scenes of the women working in Estella's small dress factory were entertaining. Many times the women were depicted gossiping, being very chatty, which is also another aspect of the normal Latino woman. The women that worked in the factory, Ana's mother and sister, Carlota, Pancha (Panchita), Norma, Lupita, and Angelito, were all very old-world, traditional thinkers. When Ana came to work with them she became their liberator, or their modern influence, speaking her mind and bringing them up-to-date with how women should act and think today in this great country of ours. She taught them that being who you are is beautiful and that your weight does not determine your status in society.

Ana's story was exceptional because while being just another young women trying to make her place in the world she is unique because of her background and struggles. The characters all had personalities that brought something different to the cast allowing for some funny moments and some more serious ones. This movie is somewhat educational because it opens your eyes to things that Mexican-American families still have to deal with in the U.S. today but it is also entertaining.

Ana's many different qualities allowed her to be a terrific main character allowing for an interesting movie. She shows both traits derived from her Mexican background as well as from the more modern American society she is growing up in. Her persistence and belief in herself allow her to do amazing things. Overall this movie would score an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.

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A Well-Done Coming of Age Film

Author: evanston_dad from United States
29 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this movie in the same weekend I watched "Bend It Like Beckham," and the two movies are very similar in theme. "Real Women" is somewhat darker (but not much) and takes itself a little more seriously, but it's still a very good movie about a girl coming to terms with her family and herself in working-class L.A. It's a leisurely paced film and makes many good points about the stifling effects parents can have when they refuse to see the potential in their own children, and about the need for children to sometimes ignore the guilt they feel when they defy their parents in order to meet that potential. The young lady who stars does a mostly fine job with the role, but I never felt she was completely invested in what her family thought in the first place, so didn't fully appreciate the conflicts she was supposed to be having with herself over deserting them.

The scene in which the group of female dress-shop workers strip down to compare cellulite and then proceed to work in the semi-nude is hilarious, and one of the film's highlights.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Grade: B

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Missing the point

Author: jkeysow from Arizona
14 November 2004

The movie was a life story. Someone's actual experience. The filmmaker was trying to show how hard it is for first generation American's to deal with the clash between their two cultures. The reason Ana's mother is so cruel about her weight and her loss of virginity is because it will make her less desirable to a man. Her mother believes that a woman's purpose in life is to grow up, get married and have babies, nothing more. The part where the women are working in the sweatshop and cannot turn on the fans to cool down because it will get lint on the dresses is pretty close to reality. I really enjoyed the movie but I thought the ending was a let down there was not any excitement after the build up of her getting to go to college.

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it's real

Author: garcia3892 from Los Angeles, CA
22 August 2004

I fell in love with this movie. It reminded me of my mother and I when I was going up. People might have viewed Ana's mother to be unreasonable but I view her like my own mother. It's normal for an old fashion woman acting this way towards her daughter because that was the only way she knew. Movies today have characters that you can't relate to mainly because of poor casting for because bad writers but not this movie. This movie can open your eyes and see what is going on in the Chicana world. How much the first generation of Mexican-American women try to make it on their own and still have to deal with their old fashion families. This movie is one of the few movies out there that tells the story about Mexican-American women the right way.

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Obstacles Overcome (may contain spoilers)

Author: Cara Rohrer from Binghamton, NY
13 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film directed by Patricia Cardoso is based around the struggle of a young, lower class first generation Mexican women, Ana (America Ferrara) to find her identity and happiness by negotiating obstacles resulting from her culture, nationality, gender, and economic status. Most of these intangible obstacles that face Ana are represented by her mother, Carmen played by Lupe Ontiveros.

When Ana's high school teacher suggests that she apply for college, Ana's immediate response is negative. Already, she has internalized the expectations of her economic class by not expecting to attend college. Her teacher convinces her to not abandon her hope, however, and she receives a scholarship to Columbia University. This takes care of her economic problems, but there is still a problem. She live in Los Angeles, and Columbia is in New York. Her mother, representing a traditional view stereotypical to her culture rejects the idea of Ana going to college 3000 miles away, since it would `break up the family'. In fact, Carmen's rejection goes deeper than this, as seen in her statements that Ana's proper place, as a woman are in the home, taking care of her husband and children. And so, it is seen how not only are Ana's obstacles to college cultural and economic, but also linked to gender expectations.

Ana's problems do not end there, however. Not only is she a woman, she is also overweight, which is thematized in the movie. Her mother is unwilling to let Ana forget that she is not an ideal representation of womanhood. She attempts to ridicule and guilt Ana into conforming to the societal norm of beauty as thinness. She is attempting to force Ana to internalize this conformity, as she has, and feel ashamed of not living up to it.

It is very easy to paint Carmen as an evil character, but many could attest to having mothers with similar constitutions. She swears she is only trying to do what is best for Ana, because she herself truly believes the societal myth that in order to be happy, a woman must be thin, must attract the attention of men, and must get married and have a family. Perhaps Real Women Have Curves is attempting to vilify exactly this state of mind in an attempt to dispel it.

Do not worry, though. As heavy as this subject matter may seem, everything works out nicely in the end, with nice messages about loving your body and accepting who you are.

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Deeper Analysis

Author: Brian Liebert from Binghamton, NY
12 May 2004

Real Women Have Curves, directed by Patricia Cardoso, is the story about a Latina woman Ana, who is on a quest to find her own identity. Ana is a teenager graduating from high school in L.A., where she has been an exceptional student. Ana's classmates are all going to college and her teacher encourages Ana to apply. Ana's hopes of going to college are irresolute because her family has a different set of expectations. Her mother, Carmen, feels that a woman's role in life is to be pretty, work hard, have children and take care of her husband. Carmen frequently criticizes her daughter about her weight, worried that no man will ever want her. The film is centered on Ana's self empowerment as she struggles to seek her dreams.

Real Women Have Curves is an intersection of the racial and social axes. During the film Ana, a Hispanic female, begins to date Jimmy, a Caucasian male. Ana keeps the relationship secret from her parents, fearing that they will forbid her from seeing Jimmy. Ana knows that her mother would not approve of dating a Caucasian. This special relation is important because it displays the core of Ana's character. Also vital is the division of the gender axis. The film is about the empowerment of women, and thus females of all the panoptical spectra play a role in the story.

The reproduction of stereotypes a primary focus of the film. The women in Ana's family, Carmen and Estela represent distinct, opposite poles of given gender roles. Estela is an entrepreneur, however she is unmarried and overweight - two strikes which her mother feels will keep her a bachelorette forever. Carmen is both Estella and Ana's mother who believes that a woman's life should be based on making their husband happy. Carmen and Estela are the two role models which Ana has in her life, and they are used to show the decisions Ana has to make in growing up. Carmen wants to oppress Ana's potential, keeping her working at Estela's factory and hopefully getting married. Estela hopes to be a successful designer, but is stuck paying bills for her business. Both characters exemplify the stereotypes which are critiqued by Ana's decisions throughout the film.

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If this film does one thing for the audience, it motivates women to strive to better themselves, while being happy with who they are.

Author: vriscica
11 May 2004

`Real Women Have Curve' (2002) is a comical drama starring Ana (America Ferrera), a first generation Mexican-American growing up in the predominantly Latino, East Los Angles. Throughout the movie Ana faces the obstacles and concerns all young women face growing up, except she has one more thing to worry about, her very traditional parents. Just graduated from high school, Ana has been accepted to Columbia University with a full scholarship and is ecstatic; however her parents disapprove of college. This starts a controversy that will shape the rest of the movie. Ana's English teacher has been urging her to write her essay and apply to Columbia, and when she is finally accepted, she is let down. Her parents need her to help support the family by working at her sister's dress-making shop. Along the way Ana gets involved with her first real boyfriend, Jimmy (Brian Sites). This causes Ana to face another decision that goes against family traditions, pre-marital sex. In the end, Ana has to make the decision of whether to leave home and disappoint her mother or do what she feels is right.

One controversy which prevails throughout the film is Ana's weight. Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros) Ana's mother wishes that Ana would get into the shape that she was during her teenage years. She feels that Ana needs to fit the stereotypical Barbie-like figure to meet a man that will eventually support her. However, Ana feels that she should be happy the way she is, the film ends with a comical scene at the dress shop in which all of the women strip down and dance to Latina tunes as they work. If this film does one thing for the audience, it motivates women to strive to better themselves, while being happy with who they are.

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Poignant and Enjoyable

Author: DV96 ( from Binghamton, NY
11 May 2004

Okay, I'll be honest. The very title of Patricia Cardoso's `Real Women Have Curves' had me imagining the likes of Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek writhing sensually about to elaborate flamenco numbers. Perhaps I am a victim of my own brainwashed and fantastical notions of `Real Women,' notions that Cardoso's movie thoughtfully and compelling challenges. `Real Women Have Curves' tells the story of Ana (played by America Ferrara), a Mexican-American teenager who must compromise between her family's expectations and her own dreams of attending college, all while coming to terms with her womanhood. The portrayal of a protagonist who does not fit conventional molds of feminine beauty (Ana is presented as a plain-looking and overweight Latina) is at the core of the movie's unique appeal. At its heart, the movie is about accepting physical imperfections and recognizing that true beauty is inside; by accepting herself as she is and rejecting preconceived notions of `beautiful,' (read: thin) Ana is a woman who refuses to be commodified, and made into a Barbie-esque product. In fact, it is her intelligence and outgoing personality, not any real or imagined `curves' that wins Ana the affections of her handsome classmate Jimmy. This critiques the common stereotype that a desirable woman is one who is aesthetically beautiful, and that a woman's worth is determined by beauty, wealth, and consumerism. The movie also establishes Ana's unique identity within the framework of her race, social/economic class and gender. The conflict between Ana's familial duties and college aspirations is deeply grounded in those intersecting themes; Ana's mother is unable to see college as a practical and realistic option, and instead wishes for Ana to assume the domestic responsibilities of a traditional Latina daughter. However, it is the climax of this struggle that embodies the depth and poignancy of the rest of the movie. A very enjoyable film.

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Real Women Have Curves (may contain spoilers)

Author: Heather T (hatsr23) from Binghamton New York
10 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In director Patricia Cardoso's first feature film , Real Women Have Curves a group of rarely portrayed complex, deeply human, hard-working Latina women are displayed. The film is based on the play by Josefina Lopez, who uses some of her life experiences in her portrayal of Latina women in an attempt to defy and obliterate common stereotypes and misrepresentations as Latinas were mostly portrayed as prostitutes and maids in media during her childhood. Real Women Have Curves focuses on many interconnected issues such as teenage rebellion, generational culture clash, body image and familial expectations without delivering the usual negative ethnic stereotypes associated with Mexican-Americans. Set in the predominately Latino community of East Los Angeles, Real Women Have Curves tells the story of Ana, a first generation Mexican-American teenager. After receiving a full scholarship to Columbia University, Ana is torn between her parents more traditional desire for her to provide for the family by working at her sister's sewing factory and her more mainstream ambitions of attending college. This film embodies the notion of parents who try to enforce conditions of their homeland on the children, who are becoming Americanized at blinding speed. Ana represents a girl contesting the stereotypes around her and defeating the common dilemma of immigrants effort to balance their own culture with a desire to fit into the `American life'. Latina women are commonly stereotyped in American film as hip-swinging, fractured English-speaking, ditsy sex objects. The situation of Latina actresses is such that they display themselves and their bodies, as well their ethnicity, in order to please the audience and to fulfill the scope of expectations of Latina stereotypes imposed Anglo-American's way of perceiving their cultural image. Imagine being in a family where your mother does anything to manipulate her family into doing things her way. Imagine being in a family where you are forced to work at your sister's dress factory for no wages instead of attending college. Imagine being in a family that thinks you are ungrateful for what they have done for you only because you want to break through a cycle of cultural and socioeconomic identity your family has placed you in. For most, this situation is implausible. Yet for Ana, this situation is reality. This film exemplifies how Ana overcomes her challenging circumstances with confidence and becomes an independent woman. Carmen possesses the traditional beliefs and roles of a low socioeconomic class and Latino culture asserting that a woman's destiny is simply to get married, have children and take care of her family. Hence, from Carmen's perspective college is out, hard work is in. How dare Ana try to break the cycle of working in a sweatshop and dream outside of her mother's expectations. However, as Ana states `women have ideas, they have a mind.' To Carmen the concept of a woman having ideas seems ridiculous; in their world, a woman's value is determined by her ability to take care of her man and her home. Thus, in the film Real Women Have Curves some of the economic social issues existing among Mexican-American women are addressed . Ana's mother is a traditional Mexican mother trying to make her daughters fit into the same mold she herself grew up in, however Ana will not accept this stereotypical role of the Latina housemaid or the Latina factory oriented worker. Setting is an important aspect in Real Women Have Curves not only as a character and plot-building device but also in its representation and critique of stereotypes . For example, Ana's bus ride to school is a tribute to the battered beauty of real-life L.A. The camera lingers adoringly on everyday Angeleno images that seldom appear onscreen, Latino men are displayed waiting on the street corner along with stray dogs, and old ladies. It's a cinematic, populist contradiction to so many Hollywood stereotypes about L.A., particularly the myth that nobody walks anywhere In addition, the presence of mirrors in the setting of this film play a vital role in emphasizing the stereotypical Latina role Carmen wants her daughter to inherit. As Carmen speaks about Ana into a mirror, the idea that Carmen wants to see Ana as a reflection of herself (Carmen) is asserted. However, as previously stated Ana resists the stereotypical lifestyle offered by her mother. The other overriding issue in Real Women Have Curves is that of weight. It contradicts many American films assertion that `thin is in'. Its a slap in the face directed at the American society that cherishes impossibly unnatural physical perfection. Ana is strong-minded and does not have problems with her self image. Ana is a role model for young women who obsess over their looks and forget that it is more important to search for one's inner self than for the exterior. She has flipped the entire concept of what it really means to be beautiful and Latina. Carmen constantly belittles Ana for her weight constantly referring to Ana as `la gorda' (the fat girl), however Ana and Carmen are both `overweight', should an individual who can't walk a half a block without getting winded really punish and impel virtues of fitness to others? na's relationship with her white boyfriend Jimmy (Brian Sites), a supportive and sympathetic outsider helps cement Ana's feelings that she is beautiful, and that her weight is okay and part of who she is as a whole. Even though he is not an official member of the Garcia family, Jimmy is an intrinsic part of Ana's life. This poses the question is Ana subject to the notion `men act and women appear' in Berger's novel Ways of Seeing? One could argue that Ana is influenced by the cinematic male gaze when Ana questions Jimmy of her attractiveness as she glances at her undressed body in a mirror. In the midst of their first physical encounter, she asks him to turn the lights on and look at her body. `This is what you're getting', she tells him, looking at her self in the mirror. He gets up, hugs her from behind, and tells her she is beautiful. However, Ana's identity is not defined solely by how she's perceived by a male eye, in fact her confidence in body image displays her rejection of concern to discipline the body and appear for the male. For instance, Ana is sharp enough to toy with Jimmy when he says, "You have a really beautiful face,"and Ana replies, "Just my face?" Furthermore, Ana is not subject to the term `panopticism' in which one is conscious of being watched and judged by others, molding oneself to the role society implants in one's mind. Ana rejects this internalization of the law which is illustrated in her countless rejections of the `thin ideal' and her affirmation that a women's identity is not be shaped by society or an idealistic mother. One develops an identity through actions and thoughts rather than one's body and reflection. Ana further demonstrates this point when one day she has had enough of the sweltering heat and takes off her blouse. Carmen is horrified by Ana's display and tells her that she's too fat. Because Ana is comfortable in her own skin, she doesn't allow her mother's derogatory comments to get to her and even convinces the other women to strip down to their panties. Ana does not act in a way that conforms to the conditions the male gaze places silently upon women nor does she act in accordance with the wishes of a supervisor. The cinematic accomplishments by Latina and Latin American women filmmakers has overwhelmingly challenged cultural and gender stereotypes, as well as introduced non-Latino audiences to the experiences of a community rooted in Latin America. Real Women Have Curves is no exception. Latinos have long been struggling with society's `guidelines' on what is beautiful. In the U.S., with such limited choices to turn to for Spanish language media, its not difficult to see what executives consider beautiful. Many Latin television stars fit into similar categories, i.e. fair skin and blonde hair leads the way. In Real Women Have Curves Ana embodies what young Latinas face on a daily basis, from the pressure of conforming to generations of subservience to dealing with society's unfair measures of beauty. Hence, Ana's aspirations are not driven by Carmen's desires to keep Ana within "la familia", contrarily they are set by Ana's individual standards and values of self.

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No Hollywood Stereotypes Found Here...

Author: nightraven20 from Binghamton, NY
10 May 2004

Real Woman Have Curves plays to those sick of the normal Hollywood stereotypes of beauty. The big theme of the film, literally and physically, as told from the title, is Ana's weight. Not often and almost never do we see a leading lady not fit the Hollywood standards of thin and made up; always having perfect hair and make up, even after just waking up. Here Ana and the rest of the women and `real'. Ana's figure, although less then perfect for Hollywood standards, doesn't stand in the way of her being successful and to come out on top.

Ana and her family's low economic standing also forces her to work in her sister's factory, making dresses for cheap that are later sold for a lot more then pocket change. Although reluctant Ana's responsibility to her family comes through and she does what she can to help. Also being of a traditional Latino family Ana experiences repression by her mother to stay at home, learn to cook, sew, clean, and to prepare to care for her future husband whom ever that may be. Throughout the film, mirrors are used to cast reflections in the frame of Ana's mother Carmen, to show her eagerness to see Ana as a mirror image of herself.

Real Woman Have Curves is an entertaining movie for those who wish to look past Hollywood stereotypes such as perfect body, generic white families, and typical romances.

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