- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

"Real Women Have Curves" may come as a bitter disappointment to anyone expecting a good-humored manifesto in defense of the full-bodied woman. The heroine of this ethnic groaner, derived from a theater piece by Josefina Lopez, is a Mexican-American teenager named Ana Garcia (America Ferrera), whose big quarrel is with a monstrously tyrannical yet irrelevant mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros).

The movie pretends to establish Ana as a senior nearing graduation from Beverly Hills High School who, despite a fine academic record, hasn't bothered to apply to any colleges. A kindly English teacher, Mr. Guzman (sitcom star George Lopez) has to intervene on her behalf. Darned if he doesn't land a bit of a plum: a scholarship to Columbia.

This is where the filmmakers lost me on common-sense grounds. If Ana qualifies for this sort of distinction, why wouldn't she make the grade at any of about two dozen colleges near her family's home in East Los Angeles? She supposedly has been commuting by bus to high school for two or three years. She would have a shorter ride to quite a few college campuses.

While ignoring a few self-evident facts of college-bound protocol and self-interest, "Real Women" sticks Ana in a summer job at her older sister's dress factory and brokers a love affair with a high school classmate named Jimmy, a twerp from Beverly Hills who is indispensable to early retirement of her virginity.

Endorsing teenage fornication on grounds of sheer expedience is more of a preoccupation with the filmmakers than depicting the way in which a college-bound teen might resourcefully plan for a college education, even if it means working part time and attending a creditable institution that happens to be close to home and so presenting less of a burden to a large family with limited resources.

But are Ana's resources grievously limited? She has a sweet-tempered dad, Raoul (Jorge Cervera Jr.), who seems to be running a gardening business of some kind. Brothers and cousins who never get characterized hang around in certain domestic episodes. The only obstacles are ridiculous: the heroine's own inertia and her mother's exaggerated hostility and stupidity. The ideal happy ending might find Ana enrolled in college while Mom is institutionalized for galloping dementia.

At one point in her sweatshop hours at the dress factory, Ana urges the other women, a predominantly stout and middle-aged work force, to join her in stripping to beat the sweltering summer heat. It's possible that the scene was a showstopper onstage, but even there, it must have looked like a desperate and stale attention-getter. The screen seems to demand a more outrageous stamp of desperation.

It pleases the filmmakers to award Ana a swagger as she finally sets off for freshman year. It's uncertain whether she plans to join the student body or solicit the student body.


TITLE: "Real Women Have Curves"

RATING: PG-13 (Occasional profanity and sexual candor; fleeting nudity; implied intercourse between teenage characters; episodes of family conflict, especially between mother and daughter)

CREDITS: Directed by Patricia Cardoso. Screenplay by George LaVoo, based on a play by Josefina Lopez. Some dialogue in Spanish with English subtitles

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes


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