Real Women Have Curves is the story of Ana (played by America Ferrera), a Latina teenager, during the summer of her 18th year. Ana is beautiful. Hourglass figure with melon breasts, full lips and long thick hair. She's intelligent and strong willed but is being held back by her family, especially her mother who constantly berates her because of her physical appearance.
Ana lives with her family in East Los Angeles in a Mexican community but she goes to a high school in Beverly Hills; a feat she accomplished on her own. The story begins with Ana getting ready for her last day of high school. Her mother feigns being sick to get her to stay home but Ana doesn't fall for it and heads off to school showing immediately the strained relationship between these two women and the emphasis Ana places on education.
Ana's mother, Carmen (played by Lupe Ontiveros) is old school; she started working for her family when she was thirteen. She married young and became a mother. Work and family are her life. She wants the same for Ana and wants Ana to want the same which is an odd scenario because most story mom's want more for their children. Carmen is needy and insults Ana about her weight in front of everyone. As the story moves on it becomes more disturbing. During her graduation party someone offers Ana some of her surprise cake and Carmen says, "can't you see she'd bigger than the cake." Despite this Ana tries to maintain a degree of self esteem.
Carmen takes Ana to the sewing factory where she enjoys showing her the ropes unfortunately Ana purposely does bad at the job to spite her mother for not letting her go to college. She soon comes around for her sister's sake.
Estela (played by Ingrid Oliu) is Ana's adult sister. She still lives at home and runs the sewing factory where they all work, "Estela's Fashion Design". They make dresses for Bloomingdales, getting $18 a dress when the store sells them for $600. This infuriates Ana as well as the fact they never make dresses bigger than size 7. Estela has many heavy weights beside the physical weight she carries. She's fighting to keep the factory open, pay the rent, get the dresses made on time to satisfy buyers and keep her employees working despite the inability to pay them their wages. Three employees move back to Mexico and Estela has Ana to promise to stay and help with a recent order.
With Ana's unknowing help, Estela steps outside the box and begins designing her own dresses. As a special gift, she makes a special red gown for Ana, regrettably we never get to see Ana in it. Like Ana but to a lesser degree, Carmen berates Estella. It's during one of these time Carmen mentions love, "It's because I love you that I make your life so miserable." Estela replies, "Love me less." Poignant words.
When she's not at work Ana starts spending time secretly with a boy from school. Of course he thinks she is beautiful. She enjoys the attention and tells him she's happy with who she is and how she looks but she doesn't really believe he can be happy with her because she's fat.
George Lopez makes an appearance as Ana's teacher, Mr. Guzman. He encourages her to go to college, helps her fill out her college application and makes a special visit to plead with Ana's parents to let her go to college when she is offered a full scholarship to Columbia.
Despite this wonderful news her parent's (mostly her mother) refuse to permit her to go. Ana is an adult and she could just tell her parents she's going and that's that but her mother uses the age of her grandfather to get her to stay. Although a small role, Lopez's character is effective as the nurturing teacher looking to help a woman from his own community.
The best scene in the movie is when the women in the factory, strip to their underwear to expose their secrets. It all starts when Ana can't take the heat in the factory any longer and removes her shirt to cool herself. Her mother freaks, telling her she's too fat to show that much of her body. Ana is not ashamed or afraid of her body and she lets her mother know it. The other women in the factory back her up. They begin to share their body parts and how they feel about it. They take off their clothes which further infuriates Carmen. "this is who we are" yells Ana, "real women." They all celebrate each other (without Carmen) and go back to work in their underwear after Carmen walks out. This seen easily shows how Ana and Estela evolve while Carmen seems trapped in her bitterness and insecurities. She has an opportunity to bond with her daughters, women, and chooses not to. It's very exhilarating to watch. Real Women Have Curves is worth seeing for this scene alone.
Throughout the movie is laced with lots of peppy Mexican music and shots of the Mexican community. There are subtitles between family members but it isn't distracting enough to be cumbersome and adds to the angst of family.
I love this little film about a strong willed girl's transition from a teenager into a woman. America Ferrera plays the part of Ana as a confident teenager who has a devilish side for egging her mother on. She still has insecurities to discover and conquer. It's easy to love her, her sister and even her mother. I would have liked Estela's storyline expanded as hers is an interesting character.
Most importantly this film's success and the success of the characters are not contingent on Ana losing weight and finding true love to be happy. Real Women Have Curves is a movie not only for Latina women but, I think, for girls and women everywhere battling the views of others about how they should feel about their bodies.
Purchase Real Women Have Curves DVD from Amazon.com.
Purchase Real Women Have Curves DVD from Amazon.ca.
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