Girl in Progress: Heartfelt, but Stumbles with Good Intentions

The movie starring Eva Mendes works as a nice Sunday matinee treat between mothers and daughters

By Oscar Barajas
Published on LatinoLA: May 8, 2012

Girl in Progress: Heartfelt, but Stumbles with Good Intentions

"Girl in Progress" is a new film by director Patricia Riggin of "Under the Same Moon" fame. The film deals with two stories interwoven into one.

The first IS ABOUT an overwhelmed single mother named Grace, played by Eva Mendes, trying to keep her head above water as she juggles her job, her romantic life with a married man, and her relationship with her teenage daughter. She goes through a lot more Mr. Right-Nows than Mr. Rights that leave her in a perpetual state of arrested development.

The second story deals with newcomer Cierra Ramirez, who plays Ansiedad the teenage daughter, who is having her own tough time simply growing up and finding her place in the world. She feels that she can reach adulthood a lot sooner if she goes through all the steps dictated TO US BY ARCHETYPAL books and articles she reads at the library.

Why this movie works: The acting in this film extends itself to cover for the shortcomings that come with the script. The supporting cast is also very strong. Matthew Modine plays Grace's love interest, Dr. Harford. He is an endless slime chasm who appears to be bottomless at times. Just when you think his character cannot be any more morally bankrupt, Modine comes back and takes another mortgage on his soul.

Eugenio Derbez plays Mission Impossible, the handy man, apprentice waiter, and jack-of-all-trades at the restaurant that employs both him and Mendes. His infatuation with Grace knows no bounds and later creates havoc for the both of them.

The direction is capable and the pacing works. There are a couple of laughs that are sprinkled about that allow the movie to flow. The balance between Grace stumbling to reach out, while at the same time not being there, makes the movie enjoyable.

Why this movie does not work: The writing is over-the-top, and more often than not, leads to predictable plot holes and situations you can see coming a mile away. The movie has good intentions, but it ends up falling flat. I can appreciate the fact that they want to have Ansiedad sound intelligent beyond her years, but in the end she ends up as a bad mix between Stewie from the "Family Guy" and one of the featured players from "Dawson's Creek." There is nothing more off-putting than a walking Lexicon that pontificates their individual coming-of-age story. The adolescent problems can be redundant to the point where you sigh and think to yourself, "Here we go again."

The bottom line: I cannot recommend this movie on any LEVEL but one: THIS movie works as a nice Sunday matinee treat between mothers and daughters. Although it is nice to see MORE Latina talent on the screen, SUCH efforts are crippled when the intention is to have a movie starring Latinos without noticing the Latinos on the screen.

Having a movie focus on a movies with Latina mothers and daughters is a step in the right direction, but this movie stumbles when it tries to stride. That is like trying to watch "Spider-Man" while trying to ignore the guy walking upright on the walls.

About Oscar Barajas:
Barajas makes his home in East Los Angeles. A writer and a professional babysitter, he seeks to make you laugh.
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