Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4
I simply cannot get my doorman to agree that Charlize Theron
is the most beautiful actress in Hollywood. "Someone oughta
feed her," he sniffed. "I like 'em with some meat on their bones.
When he added, "There's more to love," he beamed with the
assurance of possessing an original insight. This fellow
was born too late: he'd have fit real cozy into the Europe of Peter
Paul Rubens. I wish I could fix him up with America Ferrera, who
makes her debut film performance in Patricia Cardoso's "Real
Women Have Curves" (in other words: "Real Women are
Pleasantly Plump") said to be the first movie with an American
distributorship that is both directed and written by Latina women.
This is a small movie on a coming-of-age theme that's not at all
new, i.e. the conflict between the youthful generation and the older
one. Nonetheless we're talking the marvelous Lupe Ontiveros as
the latter force and Ms. Ontiveros ("Chuck and Buck," "El Norte,"
"As Good As It Gets") can do no wrong.
Here's a film that might disturb traditional families living in the
U.S. who are not into the yuppie idea that the aim of life is to
break way from your parents' place as soon as you can earn a
buck, take a pad in the city, and enjoy a rich social life far away
from your folks. To conventional thinkers, this constitutes family
break-up, and family is, as Dan Quayle reminded us quite a few
times, the paramount source of values.
Ana (America Ferrera) is part of a family unit and workplace
environment that for all practical purposes would approve of a
graffito I saw recently placed on a posted featuring Kate
Bosworth's Blue-Crush body, "Feed me." Virtually all could
survive a couple of months of hibernation without a problem,
though they would not relish the idea. When Ana's rotund mom
Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros) delivers her weighty opinion to her
eighteen-year-old that she's not going to get anywhere unless she
trims down, we suspect that Carmen wants nothing more than to
keep her little girl with her at home, fat and happy, away from
boys and within a radius of a couple of miles of their East Los
Ana's coming-of-age includes the obligatory loss of virginity to
an Anglo who likes having more to love, but the film's center is her
struggle with her mom who calls her a puta for "not saving herself"
but whose horror of "going all the way" is really her opposition to
Ana's cutting the umbilical and taking up residence at Columbia
University three thousand miles from the Coast.
Maybe Ana shouldn't go after all. She works in a sweatshop
under the benevolent stewardship of Estela (Ingrid Oliu), preparing
dresses that the factory delivers to the contractor for $18 each
only to be resold at Bloomingdale's for $600 per. Despite the heat
and Estela's resistance to use of a fan, the shop is a fun place
populated by women of the same ethnicity who in the picture's
most comical scene do almost the Full Monty by stripping down
to their unmentionables and dancing to bright mariachi tunes.
You get the impression that these blue-collar folks are the real
Americans, particularly when contrasted with the stick-up-the-butt
boss who is "doing a favor for you people" by giving them the
contract. Ms. Ferrera is a charmer, particularly when she moves
her eyes toward the northwest whenever she receives a
compliment from her first real boy friend, Jimmy (Brian Sites). Are
we giving anything away when we say that the family softens up in
the end? "Real Women Have Curves" is an uplifting, comic, and
earthly piece of work.
Copyright © 2002 Harvey Karten