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.