As single mom Grace juggles work, bills, and her affair with a married doctor, her daughter, Ansiedad, plots a shortcut to adulthood after finding inspiration in the coming-of-age stories sh... Read allAs single mom Grace juggles work, bills, and her affair with a married doctor, her daughter, Ansiedad, plots a shortcut to adulthood after finding inspiration in the coming-of-age stories she's reading for school.As single mom Grace juggles work, bills, and her affair with a married doctor, her daughter, Ansiedad, plots a shortcut to adulthood after finding inspiration in the coming-of-age stories she's reading for school.
Ann's mother is Eva Mendez's Grace, a very conceded, uninvolved woman of many low qualities. She got pregnant at seventeen, was kicked out of the house by her strict mother, never got married, and spends time dating numerous men. She is mostly absent while Ann embarks on this conquest, only turning up to vaguely question her daughter's recent behavior, before going back to doing what she was originally doing. But hey, this is a coming of age story, so I guess it's just following the rules. Right? Grace is also dating a married gynecologist (Matthew Modine), spending more time with him than her daughter, so I guess maybe it's best that Ann seek out other people to influence her besides her mother.
We've all seen this idea before. The only difference is we've seen it with more heart, energy, and self-awareness than this film has to offer. There are films like Easy A and Juno, that inject themselves with witticisms and insight into the teenage life, never mocking it or festering in clichés, but satirizing the clichés commonly utilized in modern-day coming of age stories. Then, there are those rare and unpleasant experiences like Girl in Progress that simplify the core story here; the complex relationship between the mother and the daughter. We see the daughter spend the entire movie going through this tireless phase of rebellion and we see her desperately try to win back her mother's attention away from her countless number of boyfriends.
The picture's main flaw is it lacks a single compelling character that we feel for and want to watch for more than just a few minutes. Ann is a spoiled brat who often goes undisciplined (and I simply can not forgive her for being an adolescent and being hormonal - maybe if she packed more of an urgency than just, "I want my mom to notice me" perhaps I could've), Grace is the kind of mother I'm blessed to not have, and her boyfriend is faceless and unimportant in every way.
This is what you call "a big screen sitcom." Instead of making a film centered truly depicting the lives of teenagers with interesting, redeemable qualities, the filmmakers of Girl in Progress seem to believe it would be more fun to make a film centered around depressingly bland teenage conventions set not for the big screen but more for a Television movie network. The first act is instantaneously stale, the second doesn't fair much better, and the third act concludes with a mechanical exit that feels over-plotted and under-executed. Perhaps if we had a character that was at least in some aspects likable, this wouldn't have happened.
NOTE: Girl in Progress was released on Mother's Day weekend and was marketed as a film for mothers and their daughters to see. I can only imagine the awkward, unprecedented bleakness such a well-meaning move probably played out. There are better films that tackle the same struggle of adolescent confusion. I'd start with Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen and go from there.
Starring: Eva Mendes, Cierra Ramirez, Matthew Modine, Patricia Arquette, Eugenio Derbez, and Rani Rodriguez. Directed by: Patricia Riggen.
- Sep 12, 2012