Written by Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo
Directed by Patricia Cardoso
If you’ve ever caught the television show Ugly Betty, then you’ve caught a glimpse of the amazingly talented America Ferrera. In Real Women Have Curves, she portrays the central character, Ana Garcia. This is her first role and I find it amazing how the two characters really seem to connect.
Ana is a bright girl who’s graduating high school. Her English teacher, Mr. Guzman (portrayed by George Lopez) encourages her to go to college. He even visits her home in an attempt to convince her parents she should go. Unfortunately, those pleas fall on deaf ears. Her father, Juan (portrayed by Jorge Cervera Jr.), defers to her controlling and manipulative mother, Carmen (portrayed by Lupe Ontiveros), who sees the girl only as a source of income now that she’s able to work. She’s given a job in her sister’s fledgling seamstress business, which is just about one step above a sweatshop.
Ana is not happy about the situation, that is clear. However, she plays the dutiful daughter and heads off to the factory, despite her reservations and resentment. To complicate matters further, her mother is constantly riding her about her weight, insulting her at every turn. It’s not that Ana is terribly overweight, but she’s a full-figured kind of girl. All of this has worn down her self-confidence to the point where she’s resentful of her family and bitter about her life and her future.
Eventually, she connects with a boy at school, Jimmy (portrayed by Brian Sites). His feelings for her, warts and all, give her a sufficient ego boost. Ana is realistic in what their relationship is and doesn’t expect a commitment from him as he’s preparing to leave for college. Ana is accepted on a full scholarship to Columbia University as well, and she wants to leave against the wishes of her family.
Ana is a magnificent character. She’s coming of age and it’s not in the fashion I’m used to seeing in teen movies. She’s not a kid who has it all and is searching for meaning. She comes from an impoverished background and must fight tooth and nail just to be able to escape the cycle that pervades the culture she’s grown up in. Even her sister whines that her weight is a way for her to be taken seriously. If she were thin and beautiful, she would not be considered a serious businesswoman. Like her, Ana fights the stereotypes and how people want to pigeonhole her into the role of wife and mother, with no mind of her own. America Ferrera plays the role beautifully. Ana is no angel and can be bratty at times. America gets the expressions down pat with sulky, belligerent looks even as she’s grudgingly giving in to what’s expected.
The role of Carmen is complicated. Most parents want to see their children achieve all they can, and usually do better than they fared in life. Carmen seems to resent Ana’s abilities and potential, preferring to see the girl sentenced to a life in a sweatshop rather than getting an education and getting out of the poverty that surrounds them. She prefers to see her sentenced to a life as a wife and a mother with little hope for anything more, rather than achieving what her potential will allow. At one point she even says that “it’s not fair”. To keep Ana tied to the family and doing what she wants, she manipulates her with ailments and sob stories as well as emotional manipulation, all the while insulting the girl. She seems to revel in the little defeats life hands Ana, and enjoys seeing her beaten down.
The love Ana gets is from her father and grandfather. They seem to understand the growing pains Ana is experiencing. Though her father won’t stand up to his wife, he subtly encourages his daughter to go for her dreams.
There are parts of the story that are somewhat contrived. The whole admission process to Columbia University doesn’t ring true, not the ease with which she manages to secure a full scholarship with no apparent direction in life other than to get away from home. Still, the story is a sweet one, and one that many girls can relate to. Many of us have grown up in an era very different than what our mothers were raised in and it’s hard to make the adjustment from one generation to the next. In certain cultures, this is still prevalent, especially for first-generation Americans.
Real Women Have Curves was the winner at the Sundance Festival in 2002 and is a fine movie with more going for it than your usual teen flick. It doesn’t show a major breakthrough on an issue, but just sends the message that the women we usually see on the silver screen and television and in the magazines aren’t “real” but instead an ideal that many of us try to kill ourselves trying to achieve. The real women are the hardworking ones who have stretch marks, cellulite, and softness.
A good portion of Real Women Have Curves is in Spanish, so be prepared to read subtitles. I found it a wonderful film that left me feeling good and reinforced what I have liked about this actress since I came across her on television earlier this year.
” Additional Scene
” Audio Commentary with America Ferrera & Lupe Ontiveros
” Audio Commentary with Director Patricia Cardoso, Writer Josefina Lopez, & Producre/Writer George LaVoo
” Featurette #1 (English Language)
” Featurette #2 (Spanish Language)
” Special Offer From People En Espanol
” Cast & Crew Bios
Categories: Movie Reviews
Ah, the “Beauty fades, dumb is forever” line reminds me of Judy Sheindlin and her now-closed show “Judge Judy.”
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Yup, that’s where I got the title from!
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