What happens when you take a Beverly Hills High School graduate and force her to work in a factory on the east side of LA with no pay and no air conditioning? You end up with a sweaty combination of spoiled brat and fresh perspective.
Ana Garcia (America Ferrera) is a new-millennium, savvy, first-generation Mexican American caught in a whirlpool of conflicting cultural rituals, in addition to the usual adolescent struggles inherent in breaking free of your parents’ mind-set to discover your own. Her mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros), splits her energies between blowing kisses to her two caged songbirds and inflicting nonstop guilt upon her two daughters.
In her sister, Estela’s (Ingrid Oliu), dress factory, a cute and corpulent Ana admires a black cocktail dress — size seven. Carmen sees her and says, “Don’t get your hopes up ... You’ll never get into that one.” Ana’s mother is constantly criticizing her weight, as well as thwarting her attempts to continue her education. But Ana likes her body and her mind. She’s stifled by the injustices she sees in sweatshop conditions and old-world limitations.
Directed by Patricia Cardoso, Real Women Have Curves is based on the popular West Coast play by Josefina Lopez about her real-life experiences in an East LA sewing factory. All three Garcia women shake and stir what they have with unapologetic pride, but you have to give extra credit to Ontiveros (Chuck and Buck, As Good as it Gets). With all of Carmen’s destructive delusions and mind-controlling hang-ups, she’s damn likable and entertaining — like when she tragically recounts a scenario from her favorite soap opera to the girls, about a cross-eyed daughter disobeying her mother’s wishes and meeting with ill fate. You laugh as much as you cringe at Ontivero’s naive attempts at manipulation.
Real Women Have Curves makes for a refreshing mother-daughter outing that will leave you with an empowered smile, a newborn respect for all changes of life and a craving for flan.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W. of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.