xmas 2017
music friday: pink, "beautiful trauma"

film fatales #33: real women have curves (patricia cardoso, 2002)

Real Women Have Curves is an admirable, even necessary movie. I'm tempted to put that statement in the past ... Real Women was an admirable movie in 2002. But things have changed so little that even in 2017, there is something special about a movie that champions real women with real bodies, that tells an honest story of the Latinx community, that presents a working-class perspective.

Real Women Have Curves doesn't always escape the prison of relevance, but for the most part, its excellence overcomes any problems. Cardoso and co-writer Josefina Lopez, who also wrote the play on which the film is based, delineate the class structure under which its characters live, without being too heavy-handed. They are helped by the performance of America Ferrara, who made her movie debut here. Ferrara is sometimes too morose, but that's hardly a complaint ... she's playing a teenager, what do you expect. On the occasions when she breaks through, her smile lights up the screen.

In her essay, "From the New Heights: The City and Migrating Latinas in Real Women Have Curves and María Full of Grace", Juanita Heredia delves into the continuing importance of Real Women Have Curves:

Cardoso cautions young Chicanas/Latinas with these examples not to fall into the trappings of their bodies, which will change over time, to pursue a man; that is to say, rely on their biological role or “spitfire” image in exchange for their intellectual resources. Unlike many past Latina roles constructed primarily by Hollywood, Ana [Ferrara] prefers to follow a different path to achieve self-fulfillment, autonomy, and respect....
Cardoso breaks with the visual representation of subjugated Chicanas and Latinas on screen because she presents these women in regards to the politics of the body and mind across cultures, neighborhoods, and cities.
Still, there is something generic about Real Women Have Curves. Perhaps that's the point ... the movie demonstrates the way a standard storyline can be filled with someone other than white people. I can't say I've seen it all before, when the setting within the Latinx community makes the movie singular. But nonetheless, it felt familiar.
This is emphasized by a current argument about Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig's breakthrough movie. Michelle Cruz Gonzales asks, "Did Greta Gerwig Plagiarize Lady Bird?" She sees too many similarities in the plots of the two films to be just a coincidence. "I’ll still argue that Real Women Have Curves is a better movie and that Greta Gerwig stole it, colonized it, and will get all the recognition for creating something new, something unique." The problem I have with this argument is that while it is true the movies have similarities, they come in part because of the reliance on a traditional storyline. There were coming of age stories before Real Women Have Curves, and there will be more after Lady Bird. Their singularity comes from placing that storyline within a new context. Real Women Have Curves benefits greatly from this context. 8/10.
(Explanation of the Film Fatales Series.)