Ana Garcia (America Ferrera) lives in two worlds. By day, she’s a student at a very prestigious Beverly Hills high school, where one of her teachers, Mr. Guzman (George Lopez) not only sees her brains, but her potential and encourages her to apply for a scholarship to Columbia University. By night, she’s back in her East LA neighbourhood, working with a boss she hates at the local pharmacy and navigating her family of Mexican immigrants.
From the very beginning, we see how Ana fights to straddle her two very different worlds. She wants more for herself, and as first-generation Mexican-American, getting it is simply a matter of desire… and cutting the apron strings of her controlling mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros). Immediately, the audience is exasperated with Ana’s mother, and it’s not just because Lupe also played Selena’s killer [Selena (1997)]. Carmen is controlling, emotionally manipulative, psychologically abusive, and clearly narcissistic.
Ana’s older sister, Estela (Ingrid Oliu) is sweet to the point of being a doormat, working hard sewing dresses for pennies on the dollar to big department stores in order to help their family stay afloat while Ana’s father, Raul (Jorge Cervera), is a day laborer.
During the summer after high school graduation, the most definitive period of her life thus far, Ana quits her job and goes to work with Estela. Her big sister, as well as the other women working in Estela’s small sweatshop, teach Ana invaluable lessons about embracing your culture, speaking your truth, and living unapologetically in your skin.
Real Women Have Curves is one of many reminders of how patriarchal beauty standards and toxic family members alike can work against young women. As we watch Ana struggle with her family’s expectations and her own desires in this charming coming-of-age drama, we feel all of Ana’s frustrations and relish all of her triumphs as she forges a path all her own.
I give this one 4.75 stars.