Saturday, October 20, 2012

Girl in Progress: Movie Review

A coming-of-age story told by the book is good, smart and enjoyable.

Coming-of-age films are a dime-a-dozen and, surprisingly, good coming-of-age films are also a dime-a-dozen – providing they have the right hook and the right leading teenager. That’s exactly why “Girl in Progress” can neatly fit itself in-line with other memorable and good, but not great, teenage girl films. Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) is a snarky teenager, fed up with her immature mother (for good reason) and rebels at home and at school because she’s got nothing better to do. 2012

Directed by: Patricia Riggen

Screenplay by: Hiram Martinez

Starring: Cierra Ramirez and Eva Mendes

The single mother, Grace (Eva Mendes), goes from one married man to another, to a new town, and from same old waitressing and maid jobs to another. Mendes isn’t great but then again her character is as selfish, immature, self-absorbed and superficial as one can get. The daughter, Ansiedad, has been described as mean, manipulative and stupid, just like how angst-ridden teenagers can be. It worked here, since in the beginning at least, her many negative attributes were presented humorously, and given her age she isn’t supposed to be as mature or responsible as her mother.

The hook, though, is what really elevates “Girl in Progress” to “good”. In school, Ansiedad’s teacher (Patricia Arquette) is educating the students on coming-of-age stories. Where, through a series of events, teenagers essentially become adults. This is exactly what Ansiedad wants, and she is fairly perceptive, so she is able to write out the various situations that the teenagers in all the stories experience in order to become adults. A manual for coming-of-age stories explained in a coming-of-age film.

Ansiedad follows it to the letter, even shortening her name to Anne, but of course, the maturation process is not something that can be mapped out. The tone of the film becomes uneven when we switch from humorous to sentimental when Anne becomes frustrated when she is not yet an adult. But that’s the type of frustration that audiences should relate to rather than just getting annoyed by.

Grace’s married man of the month is Dr. Harford (Matthew Modine). He is of course sly, unscrupulous and dishonest but the writing of the character and Modine made him worth your time. Dr. Harford is also smart, smarter than Grace, and he allows for both an unlikable character to remain unlikable and to have an unlikable character as the catalyst for change. The supporting characters, like him, and the hook make “Girl in Progress” both likable and smart. Relatively, speaking.