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Monday, September 10, 2012

GIRL IN PROGRESS: Reviewed by Marques Wayne

In the clever opening sequence of Girl in Progress we meet Ansiedad (a plucky Cierra Ramirez), a precocious teen, at school doing a 3D power point presentation about someone who inspires her.  The subject, is her mother Grace (Eva Mendez), who we soon learn likes to hop from city to city and boyfriend to boyfriend with her daughter in tow, which is how they ended up in Seattle where Grace's new boyfriend is a married gynecologist (Matthew Modine).  However, this is not told in a montage as Ansiedad is doing her project.  This is the project.  Inevitably, her antics land her in the principals office, but this is only the first of many stunts she pulls throughout the movie.

Ansiedad, is fed up with her mother's irresponsibility and neglect so when she learns about coming-of-age stories in English class, she decides to create her own in real life, so once she's completed it she will be a woman.  And that's where the film gets really meta.

With help from bestie Tavita (Raini Rodriguez) she goes through the motions of a "good girl gone bad" and checks off each step along the way.  That is until she gets to the part where she has to dump her best friend for the cool kids and starts stealing.  Most of this is played for laughs, like when she goes to a convalescent home to find a "grandma" on death's door so she can experience a tragedy, but there are other moments that get real, albeit in an after school special kind of way, when she tries to get 'deflowered' by a bad boy.

Meanwhile Grace is working as a waitress in a crab shack, and as a housekeeper to her gynecologist boyfriend's family so she can afford her daughter's school tuition.  Her flaky ways are not only problematic in her relationship with her daughter but also at the crab shack, where her boss is so leery of trusting Grace, or any of her co-workers, with the restaurant that he actually holds a contest for who can be the most responsible.  So, while her daughter is trying to become an adult Grace is being treated like a child, only she doesn't pick up on either until much later.

The performances are good throughout, especially the child actors.  Patricia Arquette, who plays Ansiedad's English teacher and Eugenio Derbez who plays 'Mission Impossible', Grace's co-worker with a crush,  help ground the film.  The clever script manages to make the coming-of-age-story-within-a-story feel fresh and carefully straddles the line between Thirteen and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  

Girl in Progress is out on DVD and Blu-ray September 11.

7/10 Stars *******

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