The Ruminator

Come on up and grab yourself a beer.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Real Women Have Curves (and I should know)

Monday morning - so sad after a very relaxing and indulgent weekend. It started off with a delicious brunch with the lovely Fiona, and ended with a couple of movies. One of these was Real Women Have Curves.

Real Women Have Curves concerns Ana (America Ferrera), a first generation Mexican-American girl in East Los Angeles. She is smart, ambitious, and yes, pretty curvy. Her family doesn’t really understand her desire to go to college. Her mother Carmen in particular insists she start earning money, helping out at her sister Estela’s sewing factory. Ana’s mother is hyper-critical, constantly nagging her to lose weight, the ultimate goal of which is to get her married and settled into a life of raising babies and working in a factory.

Despite the title, Real Women Have Curves is not so much about Ana coming to realise her own beauty – she actually starts off as fairly self-confident. What she does do is assert her value as something other than her body, whether that be her physical appearance or her reproductive potential.

Ana’s personal development is more about learning to articulate what she wants for herself. By working in her sister’s sewing outlet (which she initially scorns as a sweatshop), Ana appreciates for the first time how hard women like her mother and sister work and the sacrifices they have made. While she comes to value them more, it also makes her more determined to use the talents and opportunities she has.

Of course, ‘working class girl asserts independence and realises dream’ is not exactly new territory. Neither is the critical mother unable to cope with her daughter’s assimilation into a new culture (Bend It Like Beckham comes to mind as a recent example). But Real Women Have Curves is nicely told and full of interesting characters. Written, directed and starring Latinos, it paints a much more multi-faceted picture of immigrant culture than you get in mainstream American releases (for a start there is not a single drug dealer in the whole movie). The father and grandfather, for example, are very sympathetic to Ana, recognising her ambition as the fulfillment of the search for a better life which brought them to America in the first place.

Of course, I don’t at all have a personal bias towards movies concerning curvaceous women of non-Anglo background (or in my case not-entirely-Anglo background).

Written by George Lavoo and Josephina Lopez. Directed by Patrica Cardosa.