Patricia Riggen’s film is just in time for Mother’s Day, and it certainly isn’t lacking any of that drippy sentimentality you would expect from a family portrait. Ansiedad Gutierrez (Cierra Ramirez) has decided that the coming-of-age stories she is reading in her English class will provide her with a path to an adulthood in which she can successfully escape her childlike mother, Grace (Eva Mendes). After all, Mom did crown her with a name that translates to “anxiety.”
Contrarily, the texture of the film is soft and palatable, like a hunk of tres leches. While at times the bright yellow walls and wardrobe circa 1995 caused me to squint, each frame imparted a seasoned aroma. Eva Mendes’ beauty sweetened the palette, while at times her performance felt forced, as if she were feigning an infantile whine. Ramirez was slightly upstaging, but refreshingly so as she gave adolescence a license for sass.
Ansiedad is ready to consciously endure every cliched teenage right of passage that we have seen in She’s All That and The Breakfast Club, which gives the movie a sense of self-knowledge. Unfortunately it doesn’t find a way to escape the narrative trappings of those that came before. While the code for teen melodrama is recognized with clever dialogue to boot, we’re never really left guessing.
Don’t get me wrong, there could never be enough films made about mother- daughter relationships (and there aren’t). In fact the first comparable one that came to mind was 1990’s Mermaids, which succeeded more in its austere moments. Hiram Martinez has penned a fluffier, yet wittier script that at times threatens social barriers, and unabashedly so. Ansiedad’s friend Tavita turns to Grace and says, “I’m sorry your child has no father Mrs. Gutierrez.”
Alas, life doesn’t often play out as we are told it should. While Ansiedad’s teacher, Ms. Armstrong (Patricia Arquette), intends on steering clear from grand proclamations, we are still left feeling like some sort of parable on motherhood has been conceived. Perhaps this is because we are reminded of the pressures that come with the role.
Girl In Progress opens Friday.
Image source IMDb