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I just had the pleasure of catching this lovely gem QUINCEANERA (aka: Echo Park, L.A. in Europe) and I absolutely adored it. It was so refreshing to see a movie about Mexican Americans that wasn't all about gang violence and drugs. This is a lovely and insightful film about family, tradition and life as a Latino in Los Angeles, California. This film deals with a lot of issues from homosexuality, teen pregnancy, family, racism... without ever seeming preachy or forced. The acting by the two leads is some of the finest I've seen in a while and I'm a movie addict. And just when you think the film is about to stumble into the world of cliché it's lifted to an even higher level of beauty and realism. I don' know what else to say without giving away too much other than see this film and you won't be disappointed. This is by far one of the best and most rewarding films I've seen so far this year and that's saying a lot from a guy that sees way too many movies. See this movie and tell your friends about it because they don't make enough movies like this and this kind of art needs our support.
A slice of life from a very recognizable other planet. The Echo Park section of Los Angeles. It could be so many other places and at the same time it couldn't be anywhere else. New life and death co-mingling in almost perfect harmony. Love coming out of the most unexpected quarters, heroic gestures, prejudice and solitude. There is much to commend in this tiny tale with major implications. Two directors with a compassionate look and real affection. For me, personally, meant the introduction to a major talent: Jesse Garcia. He plays a character that seems to walk a permanent tight rope and yet he is so completely himself that you can't take your eyes of the guy because you know for certain he is going to surprise you in the best possible way. Excellent.
When I went to see this film, I had no idea what it was about, other
than that it had something to do with the 15th birthday of a latino
girl. It was a preview and the ticket was free. I was very pleasantly
surprised. This is a either a little gem of a movie or a gem of a
little movie. It shows a little slice of life - centering around the
(major) problems of members of a latino extended family in Los Angeles
(mostly the younger members). I'm not latino, and I live in northern
California - so I have no idea how accurate a picture it is, but the
picture is nevertheless true to life. All the characters are very
believable - a rather rare description of an American film these days.
I have never heard of any of the actors, yet without exception the
acting was superb. Every character seemed very real, like people I have
known. Halfway through the film, I did not know where it would end -
the story could still have turned in several different directions. With
the exception of an anglo gay couple, all the characters spoke in both
English and Spanish, as many Mexican-Americans do in California.
For some bizarre reason, one of the major characters - Herman (played by an actor named J.R. Cruz, is not listed in the credits in IMDb.
I think this movie will have universal appeal. This story of family
learning to accept each other, along with coming of age, and changing
urban centers will resonate with people around the country no matter
whether they know what a quinceñera is or not.
The cast is mostly non-union, and the performances they give are brave and fresh. Three cheers for Emily Rios and Jesse Garcia, who played the leads, and cousins, who are struggling with acceptance from their parents, and take shelter with their elderly great-uncle.
I also saw this at Sundance, and the film got a standing ovation. I was surprised it took both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards, but not surprised it resonated on such a fundamental level with the cast.
Directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer said they began writing the story on New Year's Day of 2005, and the entire thing came together fast - 3 weeks for financing, another three to film on their very own street of Echo Park.
I think it's specific enough to interest people, and universal enough to keep them watching.
Although it wasn't a first pick, I was able to get the time slot I wanted at Sundance to view this film. We were so impressed with the film that it was almost a post viewing panic session that we could have missed a film this awesome just because it didn't have any "big names" in it. Jesse Garcia is the next "big name" in Hollywood! Keep your eyes on this guy. His portrayal of a gay Hispanic gang member just blows all stereo types out of the water. Chalo González is a national treasure, and outshines the entire cast as Uncle Thomas. Emily Rios is also a great find, and really does a great job in her first big role. Listening to the writers/directors in person detailing their own experience of moving to Echo Park California, and witnessing the gentrification of the area which inspired the film, made this screening even more sweet. The only flaw that I could find was that I wanted to see more of Magdalena's family, and thought those relationships could have been fleshed out more to better understand why they did the things to her that they did. The entire cast was so approachable after the screening and Q&A, that it made me want to go out and do all their PR work for free! Glatzer and Westmoreland said to look for this film on HBO, so hopefully that will be the case really soon for the general public. Catch it if you can; it's worth the time.
This Sundance award winning film refreshingly addresses the
Latino/American culture as experienced in the Echo Park area of L.A.
Some themes running throughout are coming of age through the exciting
wedding-like Quinceanera celebrating the 15th birthday of Latino girls.
I was impressed by the honesty and goodness of each character in their
chosen lifestyles. Spirituality runs throughout the formalized services
headed by Magdalena's father(the serious but judgmental religious
type)to the nonjudgmental Tio Tomas' acceptance and love given to all,
regardless of circumstances, lifestyle, or "sin."
Echo Park culture is shown to make the most of what they have, without self-pity or whining. This movie should make the big screen for it's flair, artistry, honesty, and empathy for our country's largest minority, under-represented till now. Hooray for Quinceanera! It's joyful and a and real "upper."
A friend and I saw Quinceanera this afternoon - during its first
weekend in general release - with a mixed audience that included
numerous latins. It was interesting to note that some of the humor in
the film went untranslated - but not unmissed by that audience.
My friend and I have been obsessively talking about this gem of a movie ever since leaving the theater. The most remarkable thing to me about the film is that there are no "wincible" moments anywhere. The characterizations are dead-on, and you never feel preached to, even though there are some clear messages here about tolerance, faith, family and love.
I am urging everyone I know to see this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mexican and other Latin American immigrants bring with them their
traditions. It's a custom in many Spanish speaking countries to have a
big party in honor of a girl who celebrates her fifteen years, an age
where they are considered to have reached a milestone in their
womanhood. We are taken to a celebration of an elaborate "sweet
fifteen" party at the start of the story, in which the girl, being
honored dresses in a gown and is accompanied by her closest friends.
These parties become quite elaborate, depending on the income of the
Magdalena, a pretty young woman, not yet fifteen, attends her cousin Eileen's party and is paired with the young man she is in love with, Herman. Eileen is the center of attraction, as she dances the opening waltz surrounded by her attending friends and their escorts. It's clear that Eileen's parents have done well in their new adopted country, and they dote on their daughter. Magdalena's parents, on the other hand, are struggling to make a living.
During the celebration, Carlos, Eileen's disgraced brother, crashes the party to present some flowers he has stolen to his sister, but he is chased away. Carlos, who is gay and has no place to go, ends up taking refuge with his great-uncle Tomas, an elderly man living in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles. Tomas lives in the lower level of a house that has been bought by two gay lovers. Gays, in general have been buying property in Echo Park, displacing the Mexicans, as they gentrify the area.
Magdalena, who would be fifteen soon, is offered her cousin's dress for her own party. Unfortunately, she has filled up and the gown is too small for her. Herman, who has been making sexual demands of Magdalena, was impregnated by the young woman, something that in their inexperience didn't count on. When Magdalena's father discovers the truth, he banishes her from his house; he feels as though she has betrayed her parents and her church. Magdalena also takes refuge with Uncle Tomas, the kind man who welcomes all these problem children without passing judgment, or speaking down to them.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, the directors of "Quinceanera" have produced a surprising work that examines a lot of problems within the Mexican community in L.A. They also seem to have in mind the way that gentrification ruin the same area they are trying to improve. On the one hand, yes, they get fantastic prices for property that is beyond the means of most poor families, and then, they don't contribute anything to the fabric of the people they are displacing. The invaders, mainly gay, are another minority that has been discriminated, but they actually just concentrate in real estate values, rather than sharing the area with long standing Mexicans living in the area.
The film is made better by the two stars, Emily Rios and Jesse Garcia. Both Ms. Rios and Mr. Garcia make their characters more appealing with little effort. Chalo Gonzalez, a veteran actor plays the kind Tomas with his usual style. J.R. Cruz is seen as Herman, the boy who disgraces Magdalena and runs away from her at the time he needed his support.
"Quinceanera" is a bittersweet story made with great love by its creators, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. This is a film that will stay with the viewer because of its simplicity which has an universal appeal.
No one is perfect and this film may have its flaws but what a realistic and refreshing look at LA! The young actors do a great job, portraying their characters genuinely -- no trickery, no exaggeration. The film-makers successfully depict the Echo Park area, with its people and its traditions as well as the new challenges facing the populations of Metropolitan LA. It is indeed good to see Los Angeles in a new light, with its culturally rich neighborhoods that tend to be either forgotten or ill-represented by mainstream Hollywood films. My personal pleasure: finally a film with actors that look like and speak like the characters they embody! The Spanish spoken is correct and accents are credible! Definitely recommend it.
This was my favorite movie at Sundance this year (2006). It involves a lovely yet troubled Mexican-American family in Los Angeles. Magdalena, 14, dreams of her upcoming Quinceanera (the dresses, the limo, her friends) but unfortunately becomes pregnant! She is kicked out of the house by her preacher father and ends up living with her uncle (a lovely elderly tolerant gentleman) and her gay, estranged cousin. This unlikely trio becomes a true family, helping each other through challenging times.I loved the message of tolerance, being non-judgmental, and creating community and family. I found myself laughing, crying, and giving a standing ovation for this lovely story and cast at the end of the film.
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