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Girl in Progress

Movies | In the end, the title could describe either the mother or daughter in this film

Issue: "Trouble in Egypt," June 2, 2012

Loss of virginity is described as the "point of no return" in the movie Girl in Progress. That is when-according to the title's eponymous "Girl," Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez)-maturity will kick in. "Being a kid is stupid and I'm moving on," Ansiedad declares, inspired by English class to launch a journey-also, the plot-through the "rites of passage" required by all coming-of-age stories.

Ansiedad is the product of single mother Grace (Eva Mendes), who got pregnant young and leads an irresponsible lifestyle, trapped by blue-collar jobs and bad boyfriends (including a married one). Grace has turned her daughter into a quasi Cinderella, dependent on her to clean up after Grace's late nights and fend for herself at dinner.

Director Patricia Riggen keeps the movie aware of its own stereotypes. Grace, who is described as "a big flake sometimes," is more in denial than malicious. Though the movie does not explore Grace's past decisions in any depth, Ansiedad's existence and Grace's scrimping to pay her daughter's way through private school demonstrate at least a distracted maternal devotion.

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Ansiedad's "moving on" mission runs perilously close to trouble, but her best friend Tavita (Raini Rodriguez) is actually making reckless decisions while Ansiedad only pretends. Consequences for Tavita stay mostly offscreen, but Ansiedad's confrontation with the seriousness of sexual intercourse earns the otherwise mostly mild movie's PG-13 rating (drinking and infidelity are also portrayed).

Slapped in the face with the news that her daughter is now consciously repeating her own past mistakes, Grace makes some rapid progress of her own. In the end, the title might describe either of these two characters.

Girl in Progress is a love story about mother and daughter. It makes the point that observation and presence are two indispensable qualities of a loving relationship-a good lesson for a 90-minute movie, but not a brilliant one.


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