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Real Women Have Curves

For what it's worth, we live in a time when opportunities for young Hispanic women are greater than they've ever been. It's a shame, then, that so many of them don't know it.

Being from a largely white town, my first exposure to the world of the young Latina came when a friend of Wifely's began working for an abstinence program in the San Antonio barrio. The world her young charges were presented with was alarmingly insular and prescribed. Their friends were all pregnant and on welfare, their mothers were pregnant and on welfare, and those who could work did so in low-wage sweatshops, pumping out cheap goods for the white girls just a few miles away, in what seemed like a completely different world.

This view from outside that world is thrown into sharp relief by the new film Real Women Have Curves. The title refers to yet another problem that 18-year-old Ana (America Ferrera) has had piled onto her heaping plate of graduation-year confusion: She is beautiful, but not model-thin. This is but one of the criticisms her mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros), has of her daughter, and she is embarked on a desperate campaign to ready Ana for marriage.

It is too late for Ana's sister, Estela, who is even more overweight and whose own tiny dressmaking sweatshop is on the brink of bankruptcy. This does not prevent Carmen from insisting that Ana's future lies in devoting herself to the factory and to a husband who will keep her close to home. Matters are complicated by the fact that Ana is a very good student, and eventually gets offered a scholarship to Columbia, miles away from their Hispanic community in Los Angeles.

The plot here is not complicated, nor should it be. The problems are simple, though difficult to solve in this world outside the world, which director Patricia Cardoso has an eye for capturing in great detail. Ferrera is perfect as the headstrong but uncertain Ana, and the ladies in Estela's factory keep a humorous spark flowing through the entire film. Ontiveros delivers many of the film's finer scenes, as she struggles against her daughter's seemingly incomprehensible will to follow her own path.

The story here is not just personal, however. There are many unsubtle allusions to the family's separation from white culture, including a love interest from the other side of the societal tracks. Though the love story is the film's only weak point. It's difficult to introduce a romantic element in a film without having it take over the story, & Cardoso seems to deal with this by avoiding any buildup or character development for the boyfriend, which makes the romance feel like a bit of an afterthought.


Real Women Have Curves is a funny, thoughtful, and welcome new take on the Idealistic Graduate vs. Traditional Parents ouvre, showing much to the WB's chagrin that pretty white kids aren't the only ones with problems.

Mo' Reviews