Ana is proud of her body, and she doesn’t hide it; not from her mother not from anyone and struts confidently. What’s so unique about that? She’s a heavy set girl. Often times in Hollywood movies, the main character who is often a girl that is as thin as a stick pretends to look ugly. Not that America Ferrerra is ugly; she’s a very beautiful girl. But, there’s this perception among the masses that a girl has to be thin to be beautiful but what the film says is that you can look any way you choose and still be beautiful. It’s a message injected from writer Josefina Lopez; It’s a positive message, it’s a realistic message, and it’s a message that should be spread to many of today’s young girls. In a world where beautiful means successful, this film is grounded in reality showing that Ana is beautiful and successful just because of who she is.
America Ferrerra manages to steal the movie from every one of the actors in this film basically because of her charisma alone. Often times her mother (played with much excellent from Lupe Ontiveros) attempts to bring Ana down to her level often commenting on her weight brutally and unashamed from her friends. She often says “You’d be beautiful if you lost weight”, and when Ana is eying a dress her mother remarks: “You’d never fit that”. Why does her mother seek to bring her daughter’s confidence to shambles? there’s many reasons. It’s not because she’s particularly mean, but maybe it’s because Ana has a quality she could never have, or maybe because she knows Ana might just move on in life while her family stays in one place, maybe it’s because she has no confidence but Ana is a clearly independent individual; It’s all of the above. Her parents refuse to send Ana to college much to her teacher’s enthusiastic begging.
What’s so daunting about these characters are they’re so afraid to have their family move above their level that they often bring they’re confidence crashing down. Carmen, Ana’s mother often uses pity to gain care from Ana, pretending to be sick to get attention. Ana’s sister Estela (Ingrid Oliu)is a bitter seamstress who works alongside the many seamstresses in their dusty hot factory and pretty much refuses to move ahead in life despite the fact that she has ambitions of her own that she hides from her mother. All of these characters have ambitions in secret but are so afraid to reach for their dreams and fear that they’ll be hurt, so Ana’s mom and sister work at a factory staying in the same place in life, her father is a field worker who often patronizes Ana’s grandfather (Felipe de Alba) when he dreams about become wealthy someday. They’re not mean people, they’re people who are afraid of living life and hope to keep their kids in the exact same place so they won’t be hurt.
But what made this movie worth watching were the incredible performances from the cast; America Ferrerra is beautiful and a great actress managing to steal the movie with her charismatic and confident performance. You can tell she’s happy in the role and believes in it, so the audience will believe it, Lupe Ontiveros is great as the pesky mother who often tramples all over her daughter Ana’s dreams and uses pretend physical ailments to gain attention, the love plot between Brian Sites’ character Jimmy and Ana is one of the main highlights of the film. Their scenes together are very charming and believable and involving; I was very interested to watch their relationship progress throughout the film.While this film is an interesting story, it does tend to get bogged down in its own faults which ultimately affect it. While the movie sends a positive message to young girls about appreciating their own body image, there’s times where the script gets so preachy where it’s almost expected for the characters to break into a long monologue about how proud they are about their body.
There’s many scenes in which Ana is preaching that she’s proud of her body and even one long annoying scene in which all the girls in the factory are comparing stretch marks with each other; Gag me. The film also doesn’t add many interesting or memorable characters to the fold so it becomes difficult to care about any of them. As always there’s the stereotypical family of Hispanics that are filled with your usual Hispanic characters. There’s the strict workaday father, the wise old grandfather, the shrill of a mother, the wise older sister and much more. I found myself furrowing my brows at many of the annoying and dated Hispanic stereotypes and cliché characters in the film. Who calls their cousins “Cousin”? Also, there’s a lot of subtitled speaking from the characters when they break in Spanish suddenly which often seemed redundant and instantly became tiresome.This is a flawed but ultimately original film that invokes a positive message to young girls. Parents, take your daughters to watch this film; they’ll leave it appreciating their own appearance, and you’ll leave appreciating the story.