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Ana (America Ferrera) is 18, overweight, disenchanted and about to graduate from high school. She quits her casual job as a burger flipper, much to the annoyance of her traditional Mexican family living modestly in East Los Angeles. Her mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros) expects Ana to work at the family sweatshop making up dresses for a manufacturer, with her older sister Estela (Ingrid Oliu). Ana reluctantly helps out, but her aspirations come alive when on the urging of her English teacher she is accepted with a scholarship at Columbia University Ė in New York. Anaís family refuses to let her go, but just as she lost her virginity under her own control, Ana is determined to live life her way.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Real Women Have Curves Ė and they can be BIG curves. They also have brains and some men find them sexy. In one scene, the women in the sweatshop take off their outer garments and compare cellulite in what becomes a celebration of fat womanhood. Not only is it all right to be overweight, itís positively robust. I doubt that this one film will undo the self-image damage perpetrated by a million womenís magazine covers of ultra thin women, but itís a start.

Itís also a sweet and innocent film with a big heart, and while it lacks the dizzying elements of great cinema, it is engaging and warm. The story combines elements of coming of age and defying a stereotype, but if the subject matter is unoriginal, the script and the setting are fresh. There is the sting of truth in most scenes, and compelling performances from a great cast to flesh out the themes (pardon the pun). America Ferrera is the key to the filmís dramatic power, and she is as effective as was Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight.

The cultural issues are teased out without sentimentality and Lupe Ontiveros delivers a complex and readily accessible mother whose good intentions are peppered with selfishness and possessiveness. She is not a sympathetic character, and thatís to the filmís credit. (Both actresses have rightly won awards for their performances here.) Patricia Cardoso has clearly connected with Josefina Lopezí work (originally a stage play based on her own experiences) and found something to say without making it either a feminist or a fatty tract.

Special features include two audio commentaries, biographies and featurettes.

Published December 11, 2003

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CAST: Lupe Ontiveros, America Ferrera, Ingrid Oliu

DIRECTOR: Patricia Cardoso

SCRIPT: Josefina Lopez, George LaVoo

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Two Audio Commentaries, Biographies, Featurette

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: December 3, 2003

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