January 5, 2003 -- "Real Women Have Curves" is a femminist film about a Chicana woman's rebellion against her parents and society's limited expectations of her. She also rebels against societal pressure to conform to a very thin image of what a woman should look like. It sounds like a film with a message and it is, but it is also very entertaining. This is not one of those films where political correctness is more important than developing the characters, or the story. Here, the story comes first. This is also not one of those feminist films with repulsive, two-dimensional male characters. There are some good male characters in the film. Although the director is a woman, she treats some of the male characters better in this film than some male directors do in other films.
America Ferrera stars as Ana Garcia, a high school girl who wants to go to college, but her parents, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros of "Selena") and Raul (Jorge Cervera Jr. of "Bulletproof") tell her she must stay at home and help her Aunt Estela (Ingrid Oliu of "Stand and Deliver") at Estela's dressmaking shop. Carmen constantly criticizes Ana because of her weight, even though Carmen is no lightweight herself. She explains to Ana that it is O.K. for her to be heavy because she is married, while Ana is still single. Although Ana is not thin, she is attractive, and she has a boyfriend, Jimmy (Brian Sites), who likes her just the way she is. Ana's other great friend is her kindly grandfather, played by veteran actor Felipe de Alba. Although Ana's father would like to see her go to college, he does not force the issue because his wife is so opposed to the idea.
Ana's mother, Carmen, really plays the heavy in this film. Although Carmen presumably wants what is best for Ana, she doesn't treat her very well. It turns out there are some reasons why Carmen behaves as she does, but she doesn't come across as a very sympathetic character. Ana also has her faults, but she at least comes across as more reasonable. Estela is also an interesting character. It turns out she is under a lot of strain trying to run her own business. At one point Ana says she never realized how hard Estela worked until she began working in the dress shop. These are well-rounded characters in more ways than one. The acting is excellent in the film and the story is very solid. Character development is also excellent. This is one of those movies which make you want to know what happens to the characters later on. One thing's for sure, I'd like to think like Ana goes on to have the success and happiness she deserves. The cinematography, by Jim Denault ("Boys Don't Cry") is also very good. This film rates a B.
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