Girl In Progress – 2012

Director Patricia Riggin
Starring Eva Mendes, Matthew Modine, Cierra Ramirez, Patricia Arquette, Eugino Derbez, Kendall Cross
Screenplay Hiram Martinez

“So help me, I will set you on fire, girl.”

Above is one of the opening lines between mother Grace (Mendes) and her daughter Ansiedad (Ramirez) in the coming of age flick Girl In Progress.  The phrase is meant to trade on the “fiery latina” stereotype that the film hopes to move beyond.  In the next scene, we see “Annie” as she calls herself, doing the chores, doing her homework and generally trying to rise above the nuisance that is her mother, dancing horribly to tacky music while awaiting her “date” with a married man.  This is not a good start.

Grace is a hot mess, with a daughter in high school and about half her age.  She claims that her own mother was not supportive and unavailable, while now she does the same unwittingly to her own daughter.  Annie is bright and dedicated and open to influence.  After getting some information from her lit teacher (Arquette) she decides to embark on a Disneyfied plan to do some stupid stuff in the effort to become “an adult.”

The characters in this story are mind numbingly shallow.  This is a shame, because the message that the story tellers want to tell is a worthy one.  There are many less than ideal situations for children these days, and it would be great to see something that accurately (or even artistically) makes the point.  I have been waiting for Mendes to get a role that she could chew on ever since the first time I noticed her in Training Day.  Girl in Progress has the makings of that role, but alas, it fails to do this in almost every respect.

As the philandering gynecologist, Dr. Harford, Modine has never looked more aged.  He does a good job pouring on the slime, but they go back to the well of that storyline a little too often in that storyline.  Faring better is his cuckolded wife (Cross), who has some wise scenes that are memorable for their ingenuity and compassion. , In a film that is so very predictable, her performance was a mixture of sadness and brilliance.  Arquette’s inspirational teacher has been done better too many times before.

Ramirez has been cited by some as the breakout in Girl In Progress, but she was just average.  Working with Raini Rodriguez of Disney’s The Suit Life, they were more like a female version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

There are some nice moments interspersed throughout the last 1/3 of the film, though not nearly enough to warrant more than a pass through.

(** out of *****)

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