Ana, a first generation Mexican American teenager living in East Los Angeles, has just graduated from high school. Because she is a talented writer, a caring teacher urges her to apply to college. Ana secretly is excited about the possibility, but her overbearing and hypercritical mother, Carmen, insists that it is time for her to help provide for the family by working in her sister's sewing factory. When a crisis arises at the factory, it seems as if Ana's fate is unhappily sealed, but her indomitable will to reach beyond sweatshop life eventually leads her to burst, defiant and resplendent, through every restriction on her life.
My friend Diana had recommended this movie some time ago, and I finally watched it recently. I loved watching a young America Ferrera (from "Ugly Betty") playing the part of Ana, a smart young woman with dreams of her own. The funny thing, or maybe not so funny but it was amusing to watch, is the tension between Ana and her mother Carmen. Ana acts like a typical teenager, talking back to her mother and not being very sympathetic to her melodramatics. Carmen is a typical mom, trying to push her daughter to work and find a man to marry and raise babies and to give up her crazy thoughts about college.
Being an American, I don't think Ana fully realized how much work her mother did to raise her family, and doesn't really appreciate her. She is more assertive than her older sister, who makes small money for sewing beautiful dresses for fancy boutiques. Reluctantly when school is out, she comes with her mother to help out her sister, who unexpectedly is in danger of losing her shop. She doesn't want to help, but this experience lets her see how difficult it is on her sister and mother, and she grudgingly admits that maybe she wasn't so right after all.
What I didn't care for is Ana's mother calling her fat. I know it was just a movie, but it bothered the hell out of me, and I couldn't feel much sympathy for Carmen. I thought Ana was beautiful, with a fuller figure that made her look much healthier and prettier than the endless parade of stick figures you see in magazines and movies today. I like that Ana was not a timid girl who believed her mother and thought she needed to lose weight. Loved that actually. (We need more movies with that kind of message). And Ana is not without admirers. A boy from her class has a crush on her and with the help of her grandfather, they sneak around together to see each other and go on dates. It was sweet and very realistic.
Eventually Ana has to make a decision, and she does. The right one for her which doesn't sit too well with her mom but she goes to New York anyway. She doesn't want to stay in L.A. and raise a family. She wants to go to college and follow her dream of being a writer, so she goes.
I enjoyed the movie very much, and though yes, I did want to smack Ana from time to time, but I had to cut her some slack. Her dad was cool, wanting his daughter to follow dreams bigger than he ever had, but he loves his wife too and tries to stand by her. There is a very funny thread in the movie where Carmen thinks she's pregnant, and even now I have to laugh thinking about it. I'm glad I watched it.
Rating: **** out of *****