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Good lord, where is a Final Destination style Heath Robinson teen kill when you really need it? Generally I love meta movies in the form of "If this were an (insert genre) this would happen", in this case Bildungsroman, but this one contrived to be so utterly devoid of charm or wit that I just about wanted to slit my wrists. And the sad thing is that the ingredients available were so great - Eva Mendes + Patricia Arquette + Matthew Modine = YES PLEASE!!! The only problem was that the role given to the teen actress protagonist was absolutely unbearable. I don't mean any disrespect to the actress because she committed to the role 100% - it was the fault of the writer and director. What could have been heartwarming and cathartic (like Easy A for example) ended up being a great big nerve-grating, embarrassing snorefest. 3 out of 10 because I'm feeling generous.
I watched this movie last night and thought it was a great movie.
The movie starts off slow and a bit quirky. At times it even feels like it is trying to hard to be something its not. Then somewhere in the middle, it drops the quirky and the story develops. I became invested and began to care for the characters.
The acting was good. Both main actresses do a great job in their roles as mother and daughter. As an educator myself, I see these types of mothers and daughters almost every school year. It was nice seeing their story be told and also one from Latin roots.
I would recommend this movie because at the end of it all, you leave the movie with some thoughts and emotions tied to the characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The idea of a teenage daughter rebelling against her mother under the
guise of gaining independence is compelling. The fatal flaw of "Girl in
Progress" is that this idea is not taken seriously until the final act,
at which point we've been so turned off by the plot and characters that
we no longer care. It really is shocking how badly this movie is
structured and how poorly the characters are developed; what should
have been a poignant and insightful generational story has been reduced
to an implausible and inconsistent mess. It starts out at the level of
a second-rate sitcom, one that makes the dread mistake of believing the
jokes it's telling are actually funny. It then makes a wild shift in
tone and becomes shamelessly sentimental. This is not to suggest that
it turns dour and depressing; it simply becomes mechanical, with all
the emotional loose ends tied up into neat little knots.
Taking place in Seattle, it tells the story of a teenager named Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) and her mother, Grace (Eva Mendes), who got pregnant at seventeen, was kicked out of the house by her tyrannical mother, never finished high school, never got married, and now works as both a maid and a waitress in a seafood shack. She talks the talk about going back to night school, getting her diploma, and moving towards a computer career. That's actually the reason she and Ansiedad moved to the Pacific Northwest in the first place. The thing is, they have moved numerous times in the past several years. And Grace is no closer to starting night school. What's the holdup? Basically, she has refused to grow up. She has had several men in her life and is currently dating a married gynecologist (Matthew Modine). One could make the case that she's fun to be around, but she really isn't there for Ansiedad the way a parent should be.
Ansiedad, obviously aware of her mother's caviler attitude about everything, rebels in school by making inappropriate class presentations. Then her English teacher (Patricia Arquette) introduces to her the concept of the coming-of-age story, and this is the point at which the film goes spectacularly wrong. In learning about such stories, in which a character or set of characters transitions from childhood to adulthood, Ansiedad decides that she has been a kid long enough and that she must accelerate her journey towards maturity and independence. She researches coming-of-age stories extensively, especially in regards to the formula they tend to follow. From that, she compiles a list of life experiences that she must go. She then makes a creative-looking arrow chart and enlists her best friend, Tavita (Raini Rodriguez), to help her cross every item off the list.
In following it, Ansiedad proves she knows absolutely nothing about authentic coming-of-age stories. Her methods are cruel, manipulative, dangerous, and quite frankly, stupid. Had director Patricia Riggen and screenwriter Hiram Martinez been aware of this, perhaps this plot device would have worked. Alas, they initially treat it as a lighthearted comedy routine. Essentially, she believes she must go from being a "good girl" to a "bad girl," at which point she will miraculously come out the other side an adult. On the journey, she will join the chess club, dress nerdy, provoke the mean girl, manipulate her into friendship, start dressing as a bad girl, lose interest in school, catch the attention of the one boy who's a womanizing jerk, and ultimately lose her virginity to him. She will also pretend to dump Tavita by making fun of her weight and sneak into a nursing home just so that she can claim sickly old woman as her grandmother.
Ansiedad is so desperate to go through these life experiences that she will steal money from her mother, lie to authority figures, and intentionally ruin her reputation. How could anyone in their right minds believe this to be suitable material for a comedy? This is just tactless and insensitive. This story needed to be in the hands of filmmakers who actually understand people, teenagers and adults alike. The characters in this story are about as authentic as three-dollar bills. By the time we reach the final act, at which point it becomes a bit more dramatic, the damage has already been done. We no longer have it within us to like them, or even to invest in them for dramatic purposes.
Grace is the subject of a silly and barely developed subplot involving suddenly becoming the manager of the seafood shack and a busboy-turned-waiter nicknamed Mission Impossible (Eugenio Derbez), who can barely speak English but clearly has a thing for Grace. He does something for her, something that largely exists only in movies like this. His promise to correct his mistake is even less believable, if such a thing was even possible. Meanwhile, Grace continues to see her married lover on the sly, eventually figuring out that he's a sleazebag. We, of course, had figured that out as early as the first scene. If "Girl in Progress" is what counts for a coming-of-age story nowadays, we might be forced to go back to the drawing board. Its title isn't even deserving of the word "progress."
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
Girl in _Progress is actually a very simple, straightforward story
about a young girl doing her best to cope with her own adolescence as
well as her not-much-older mother who, in actual fact, is doing almost
the same thing. Due to her history (harsh, non-understanding mother),
Grace (Eva Mendes), is desperately trying to find the love that she
didn't get when she was Amiestad's age - and why shouldn't she?
I suspect that this movie is a lot closer to real life than a lot of viewers realise. Teenagers forget that their parents have given them the very best years of their lives form the time they were born right up to the time they think they know everything - and then some more! Fortunately Amiestad realises this a lot sooner than many kids her age but not before hurting her bet friend unforgivably (even though her best friend DOES forgive her!)
In this film, mother is only about 34 or 35 and still a beautiful woman who has the very same needs as her daughter - although her daughter (initially) totally fails to recognise that fact. Like many teenagers, she thinks that the world revolves around her - but it doesn't and, at least in this movie, she finds out before it's too late.
I would suggest that this should be compulsory viewing for all adolescent kids but I fear that, in a lot of cases, they would shrug their shoulders and just say, "Whatever!"
As Ned Kelly said when told he was to be hanged at ten o'clock the next morning, "Such is life!"
Coming-of-age films are a dime-a-dozen and, surprisingly, good coming-
of-age films are also a dime-a-dozen providing they have the right
hook and the right leading teenager. That's exactly why "Girl in
Progress" can neatly fit itself in-line with other memorable and good,
but not great, teenage girl films. Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) is a
snarky teenager, fed up with her immature mother (for good reason) and
rebels at home and at school because she's got nothing better to do.
The single mother, Grace (Eva Mendes), goes from one married man to another, to a new town, and from same old waitressing and maid jobs to another. Mendes isn't great but then again her character is as selfish, immature, self-absorbed and superficial as one can get. The daughter, Ansiedad, has been described as mean, manipulative and stupid, just like how angst-ridden teenagers can be. It worked here, since in the beginning at least, her many negative attributes were presented humorously, and given her age she isn't supposed to be as mature or responsible as her mother.
The hook, though, is what really elevates "Girl in Progress" to "good". In school, Ansiedad's teacher (Patricia Arquette) is educating the students on coming-of-age stories. Where, through a series of events, teenagers essentially become adults. This is exactly what Ansiedad wants, and she is fairly perceptive, so she is able to write out the various situations that the teenagers in all the stories experience in order to become adults. A manual for coming-of-age stories explained in a coming-of-age film.
Ansiedad follows it to the letter, even shortening her name to Anne, but of course, the maturation process is not something that can be mapped out. The tone of the film becomes uneven when we switch from humorous to sentimental when Anne becomes frustrated when she is not yet an adult. But that's the type of frustration that audiences should relate to rather than just getting annoyed by.
Grace's married man of the month is Dr. Harford (Matthew Modine). He is of course sly, unscrupulous and dishonest but the writing of the character and Modine made him worth your time. Dr. Harford is also smart, smarter than Grace, and he allows for both an unlikable character to remain unlikable and to have an unlikable character as the catalyst for change. The supporting characters, like him, and the hook make "Girl in Progress" both likable and smart. Relatively, speaking.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now I know, you're already scrolling by this review thinking "She gave
it a five, it must suck." Don't do that. I'm giving this movie a five
for three reasons.
One) It's slow to start. You never really feel anything for the characters until late in the middle. The only character that you actually feel compassion towards is Tavita (Raini Rodriguez). At least, that's how it was for me. For a long time, you're watching the movie but you're not really invested and you're only vaguely interested in what might happen next.
Two) Some of the plot lines, like many in Hollywood, are a little far fetched. The entire Crab Shack is ridiculous because no self respecting owner would leave "all he has" to a woman he doesn't 100% trust. The theft was ridiculous as well. (Including the way "Mission Impossible" "solves" it.) The party scene with the movie's "mean girl" was a little out there (and by a little, I mean, in what world would an entire party throw drinks on a girl for having sex?)
Three) Every time it would have a moment that you think "Dang, that was actually pretty moving" or "Wow, that was some impressive acting" it gets ruined moments later by an needless line or sequence. For instance, near the end when Grace is pulling Ansiedad off the bus, it's fantastic. The line "I'm not letting you go" is powerful and Eva delivers it beautifully. But then the seemingly endless chase scene takes away from the overall impact of the fight and resolution.
Even after these three faults in the movie, I enjoyed it. I think Eva was fantastic as a mother who doesn't quite have it together. There were scenes that brought a tear to my eye and that made me laugh.
The star players were Eva Mendes, Patricia Arquette, and Raini Rodriguez. There were some moments where Cierra Ramirez really nailed the misunderstood teenager, and others where she kind of made you cringe.
Overall, I would watch this movie again. I might even buy it, if I found it in the 5 dollar bin at Walmart. Is it award worthy? No. Will it change your life? Probably not. But it does have some heart and some humor.
For those who remember Cher and Winona Ryder in Mermaids and liked it,
this is an updated Hispanic irresponsible mother and cry for help
daughter comedy. There are some laugh out loud moments. The drama and
comedy don't blend that smoothly as hoped but overall it's a cute
The performances are good. Eva is funny and touching. She is a great comedienne and very convincing in the more serious moments. It's nice to see her in a real latina role speaking Spanish. She is believable showing blue collar struggles - much more than Jennifer Lopez.
Strange casting of Matthew Modine as the married cad who romances Eva's character. He is usually the good guy so it's a bit strange to see him in the role.
Overall it isn't has polished as Mermaids but it's worth a watch.
This is a well-scripted and sincerely acted family movie, devoid of
profanity. I will leave it to other parents to decide whether it is
effective, but in light of the trash that we are sold as cinema, here
is a sweet movie that attempts to convey the difficulties that
teenagers and parents face together - or apart.
I registered with IMDb.com just so that I could provide a positive review for this movie. As I watch many movies, I take notice of those that do not try to shock, but tell a simple story well. Although the story of the main character is certainly contrived, as it serves as a vehicle for her situation to have relatability, the premise is believable, as many parents can attest to the fact that children grow up all too fast in our "culture", and that children will make mistakes. It may also help children to recognize the trials that their parents face in daily life. So, this is a very decent movie for parents and teenage children to watch together, and may serve as a tool to increase common understanding in families.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is my first movie review so forgive me for being brief and
straight to the point.
This movie made me laugh, cry, shout and who knows what else lol. It is the absolute perfect coming of age movie with a nice twist. Instead of it just happening for the young main character, she decides to create her own way into what she considers to be adulthood. Little does she know is that life doesn't.. No life can't really work out that way. There is a little unexpected twist at the end, but I absolutely love that. Although not everything in the mother and daughters lives aren't as picture perfect as any movie ending can be, it ends so beautifully and with just the right amount of 'feel good' resolution that you want from a happy ending. GAAAH. Watch this movie. Rent it. Buy it. I would consider it this generations new Breakfast Club. The perfect teen stereotype, movie stereotype, girl coming of age stereotype movie. Sigh. Seriously. Watch it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
CABIN IN THE WOODS has a group of kids unknowingly forced into a
slasher film setting, becoming victims of other people's whim.
Ansiedad, our lovely protagonist, uses the same concept with a
different genre and is in complete control of the situation, almost.
In an attempt to mirror the plot-points of Coming-Of-Age novels, she intentionally lives the life of a good girl who progressively turns bad and, like in the books, sets up a character-arc by becoming a geek in the Club and then befriending the mean-spirited popular girls; going to parties; and hooking up with a rebellious womanizer.
Not all of these plans are carried through, and along the way she burns bridges not intended: like hurting her overweight best friend and distancing herself even more from her single mother Grace, played by Eva Mendes, a sexy working-class free-spirit having an affair with a married man.
Not sure whether it's a quirky JUNO type indie holding back or a mainstream flick with an edge, the film lacks focus while the over-opinionated teen gets annoying. She knows too much for her (and our) own good. Thankfully there's Grace working at a Crab restaurant and trying to keep her affair alive to even things out, but even her tale feels clichéd and, eventually, predictable.
But despite the flaws, the actresses (including Patricia Arquette as an English teacher) try their best make it work.
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