Real Women Have Curves (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/01/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Enjoyable rites-of-passage drama that avoids as many clichés as it embraces, featuring a well-rounded performance from newcomer America Ferrera.

Based on Josephina Lopez’s autobiographical play, Real Women Have Curves won a couple of awards at Sundance and was warmly regarded at the London Film Festival last year. The story may be a familiar one, but the performances are engaging and it has a couple of surprises up its sleeve to boot.

From College To Garment Making…

Set in Los Angeles’ lively Mexican-American community, the film stars newcomer America Ferrera as 18 year old Ana Garcia, a full-figured girl who has just graduated high school and has high hopes of being the first member of her family to go to college. However, her domineering mother (the wonderful Lupe Ontiveros, from Chuck & Buck) has other ideas and puts her to work in her sister’s garment factory.

However, though her mother plans to get her married and pregnant as soon as possible, Ana has something of a rebellious streak – she dates a local white boy in secret while applying for college scholarships without her mother’s knowledge. At the same time, her job in the sweatshop teaches her valuable lessons about inequality and standing up for yourself…

The performances are excellent. Ferrera makes an extremely appealing lead and although not exactly what you’d call ‘fat’, it still makes a refreshing change to see an authentically normal-looking heroine, as opposed to the usual run of Hollywood stick insects. (Although, having said that, Ferrera’s appearance at the LFF suggests she’s lost quite a bit of weight since filming, Renee Zellwegger-style).

Superb Mother From Hell

It’s also a pleasure – as with Chuck & Buck - to see Lupe Ontiveros given the chance to play a major role instead of ‘wisecracking maid’ or a similarly low-level support job.

She’s excellent as the Mother From Hell, constantly carping about her daughter’s weight and trying to control her life.

There’s also great support from the other characters in the sweatshop, including Ingrid Oliu as Ana’s business-minded sister Estella. The hilarious, thematically central scene of the film has Ana encouraging her colleagues (all overweight) to strip down and compare their various rolls of flab, embracing each other for who they are and all that sort of thing – it’s the sort of scene that could feel awkward and contrived, but the cast make it work beautifully.

In short, Real Women Have Curves is definitely worth seeing. While it’s not exactly unpredictable, it nonetheless deftly avoids as many clichés as it embraces and America Ferrera proves herself a talent to watch – here’s hoping she lands herself roles as good as this in future.

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Real Women Have Curves (12A)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 11:44

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