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What did RAMA this of GIRL IN PROGRESS?

GIRL IN PROGRESS is the perfect mother’s day movie, not because it’s lovey dovey and all warmhearted, but because it’s a wake up call to parents who may not have been ready when they became parents but now they have to step up, wear the role, and take on the responsibilities for their children’s sake.
Eva Mendes and Cierra Ramirez are terrific, their chemistry is convincing and even though parts of the story may be a bit touchy for younger viewers, especially its depiction and explanation of a girl’s rite of passage, GIRL IN PROGRESS is there to remind us what’s truly important in our lives and it can only be achieved when self-centered mindset is put aside…

Grace (Eva Mendes) is a single mom. She is too busy juggling work, bills, and the very married Dr. Harford (Matthew Modine), to give her daughter, Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) the attention she desperately needs. When Ansiedad’s English teacher, Ms. Armstrong (Patricia Arquette), introduces her students to classic coming-of-age stories, Ansiedad is inspired to skip adolescence and jump-start her life without mom. While Grace becomes preoccupied with the increasing affections of her co-worker (Eugenio Derbez), Ansiedad enlists the help of her loyal friend, Tavita (Raini Rodriguez), to plot her shortcut to “adulthood”. But as her misguided plan unravels, Ansiedad and Grace must learn that sometimes growing-up means acting your age.

Make no mistake, even though this film is directed by a Latina filmmaker and the cast consists of Latino actors, this is by no means a film made solely for Latino audience, this is not a demographic targeted films ala Tyler Perry’s. Director Patricia Riggen went above and beyond to make sure the themes in GIRL IN PROGRESS are inclusive, universal and that they’d embrace the mother-daughter relationships of any background. The latin culture and the music you’d see in the film are part of the characters’ upbringing and lifestyle but the dilemmas are familiar and relatable.

I was a huge fan of director Patricia Riggen’s film Under The Same Moon (La Misma Luna), which was about a boy looking for his mother, GIRL IN PROGRESS in a sense, to me, is about a girl looking for her mother but her mother is too busy trying to recapture the youth she thought she lost the day she had her daughter. And so, the girl, due to lack of attention, decides to become an adult sooner than she’s supposed to, which is, without realizing it, her desperate cry or need for her mother.

Riggen treads this carefully without shying away from the message. There’s a girl’s rite of passage process, including dissing your best friend, being the bad girl in school, losing your virginity, and other steps that this film conveys, I sense that the film wants the audience to know what’s out there as far as what people think a girl’s rite of passage should and should not be like but, just to give you a stereotypical idea, to let you in on it or to inform you, but the film doesn’t necessarily agree with it.

The tone is light but not underwhelming, there’s a bit of soap opera-esque drama as well, the whole affair of Grace (Eva Mendes) and a married man (Matthew Modine), that part of the story is there to give Grace’s life an even harder time, all her efforts to make herself happy go to waste and she can’t see the blessings that are already in front of her.

Cierra Ramirez is a revelation, her talent is going to get her far in this business. Her character’s name is Ansiedad which apparently means anxiety, but anxiety is not quite the impression I got from Ansiedad, Ramirez plays her character like any angry teen, trying to fit in, trying to figure things out all by herself because her parents aren’t around to help her figure those things out.

Eva Mendes’ acting in this film is sharp, she’s on her toes every minute, energetic and on fire, seems like everybody else has to keep up with her, and in this case, that’s not a bad thing. Mendes’ character Grace is a personality that’s far from being mature and it takes more than reality check to get Grace and Ansiedad to eventually find and appreciate each other, if that’s not what mother’s day is all about, then I don’t what is.

GRADE: 4 out of 5

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