Old Stuff

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Directed by Patricia Cardoso

Real Women Have Curves

As of 2002 Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the country. So it's no wonder that the country is getting bombarded with all things Latin. From Shakira to Taco Bell's carne asada steak, cafe con leche M&M's, and everything in between. This is a trend that will eventually work its way into the fabric of society as smoothly as fast food and cigarettes. It is this inevitability that makes one new film, "Real Women Have Curves," an ambitious promise for a genre full of flavors, colors and sounds that will be a welcoming change from Hollywood's mundane big-budget offerings. Chronicling a day in the life of an ordinary Mexican family living in the heart of Los Angeles, "Real Women Have Curves" is the type of movie that offers a moral with every tasty morsel of dialogue. Under one roof we meet Carmen, the mother and matriarch of the clan, two daughters (Ana and Estela), dad (Abuelo), and two recent immigrant primos. Like most Hispanic families, the solid father runs the household, and characteristically as well, it's the mother that controls the family's heartstrings. Lupe Ontiveros, a veteran of film and stage, marches around the house demanding order at every turn. Even where her management is not wanted, she asserts her will. Estela owns a gown-sewing factory, and Ana is a high school senior. Both are strong, wellmeaning women. But this is irrelevant to madre. She has a plan; and the plan is that nothing will come before family -- not love, career, and by no means, a fullpaid scholarship to an Ivy League college located on the other side of the country. This is not where the messages stop either, "Real Women Have Curves" is layered in, or more appropriately curved, in so many directions you can't help seeing how closely it resembles real life, the real world, and ultimately real women.

Don't get me wrong, the film is not without flaws. America Ferrera, is a screen novice, this being her first professional project, and it shows. Her performance is raw and at times transparent. As well as George Lopez, the comedian and star of his own self-titled sitcom, delivers a very forced portrayal of a caring, well-meaning high school teacher. Fortunately the rest of the cast compensates for their lack of experience. Ontiveros, who played Yolanda Saldivar -- the president of a young roquera's fan club that was subsequently convicted of her murder -- in "Selena," carries the story like the veteran actor that she is. Her turn as a tortured mother of acculturated American daughters is funny, arrogant, conceited and pitiful. Yet, not surprisingly, believable. Her character is played with such verve and confidence, you can't help wondering if she was based on a real character. And in fact, the answer would be yes.

But does it matter if the characters from "Real Women" were culled from real life or not? Not really. What's most important is that in a time when a lot of cultures are making comedy out of their pain and strife, Josepfina Lopez, whose play the film is adapted, and screenwriter George LaVoo, deliver a tapas menu in the form of celluloid. Like a good old American buffet, you can take away from it what you like, and leave the rest behind. -- Rating: $7.00

Riki Markowitz -- copyright 2002

Old Stuff