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Real Women Have Curves

Not many films make an audience feel this good. Real Women Have Curves is an ebulliently funny movie with sassy punch and abundant charms. First-time director Patricia Cardoso has opened up Josefina Lopez’s original stage play to create a warmly celebratory paean to life, love and body size. Ana (America Ferrera), a first-generation Mexican-American, divides her post-graduation summer between working in her sister Estela’s dress factory, awaiting an answer about her Columbia University scholarship application, and sneaking out of the house for dates with a fellow student (who drives mommy’s Volvo and sweetly relishes Ana’s exotic othernessoand bra size).
Ana faces that age-old battle between a mother’s irrationality and a teenager’s wilfulness, with the added conflict between immigrant and ‘American’ values complicating matters. Luckily, Ana has a sympathetic dad and an adoring grandpa to help her out. Luckily for the audience, Ana also has a big mouth and a sulky sense of justice. ‘She’s got a point,’ as her fellow workers say, dancing down the factory aisle to her tune. An East Los Angeles sweatshop melting with heat may not seem a likely place for comedy, but Real Women’s genius leis in how it transforms the burdens of life into opportunities for pleasure.
Stealing the show on more than one occasion is Lupe Ontiveros, who plays Carmen, Ana’s mom. Besides women’s virtue and family obligations, the debates between mother and daughter focus on size. Plump Carmen insists Ana and her sister are too fat. Ana argues that a woman’s body is always the right size. And shouldn’t the size of her brain matter more? Thanks to the story Cardoso puts up on screen, the audience’s ideas about body size and female values may never be the same.
U.S.A., 2002. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 90 mins.

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