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Real Women Have Curves

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Real Women Have Curves

Starring: America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros
Director: Patricia Cardoso
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 85 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Michele Moretti, Ingrid Oliu, George Lopez

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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 Angeles digs.

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

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