Real Women Have Curves

on October 18, 2002 by Chris Wiegand
   The work of Junot Diaz and Ernesto Quiñonez has sparked the public's interest in youthful Latino fiction in recent years, and it now seems that we are experiencing a new wave of teen-centered Latino filmmaking. Both Eric Eason's impressive ensemble piece “Manito” and Patricia Cardoso's “Real Women Have Curves” impressed judges and audiences alike at Sundance this year. “Real Women” left the fest with the Dramatic Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for Acting, marking a triumphant return for Sundance shorts veteran Cardoso.

   Cardoso's feature follows the 18-year-old Ana (America Ferrera), a promising student set to graduate from a Beverly Hills high school yet forced to reject a promising academic career in order to help out her family in East L.A. Ana is bullied out of going to college--and into working at her sister's struggling dressmaking factory--by her imposing mother (“Chuck & Buck's” Lupe Ontiveros). At first, she encounters hostility from the other workers, but Ana's irrepressible self-belief--and confidence with her full figure--soon begin to rub off on the other women in the factory. Outside work, she tentatively starts a relationship, and life in L.A. seems pretty good for once, which makes the offer of a place to study at an East Coast college all the more difficult to accept.

   Based on co-screenwriter Josefina Lopez's play, the basic story behind “Real Women Have Curves” has been told a hundred times before, but Cardoso breathes new life into a familiar premise with this charming and sensitive crowd pleaser. The film's feelgood success is due partly to its witty script and breezy score, but primarily to a standout performance from the young Ferrera, who makes for a personable and hugely likeable heroine. Sundance audiences couldn't help but root for Ana, and several scenes (including one in which she encourages her co-workers to strip off and feel proud of their bodies) were met with whoops of solidarity and cries of “You go, girl!” A major Latino project that is--refreshingly--not strictly about ‘being Latino,' “Real Women Have Curves” is sweet yet never saccharine, moving yet never melodramatic.    Starring America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, Ingrid Oliu and George Lopez. Directed by Patricia Cardoso. Written by George LaVoo and Josefina Lopez. Produced by George LaVoo and Effie T Brown. No distributor set. Comedy/Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 90 min.

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