Today I saw the film Quinceañera, which was written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.
Well-acted by an ensemble cast of unknowns, the story takes us to a real-life community in Los Angeles (Echo Park) where an intertwined fictional Mexican family deal with being young and old in 2005.
Of course, the teenage group acts like typical teenagers -- the title of the movie references the ceremonial 15th birthday that Latino females enjoy as a rite of passage. We see the quinceañera of one of the supporting characters at the beginning of the movie and it unfortunately resembles the MTV show My Super Sweet Sixteen, which is a blatant display of spoiled brats attempting to outdo each other by throwing an obnoxiously large 16th birthday bash, complete with new convertibles (can we say cliché?), cakes taller than the Empire State Building and in some cases, animals shipped in from faraway places to help the bitch of honor make an entrance. But I digress.
Anyway, the quinceañera they showed here wasn't nearly as bad as any of those actual parties, but it did demonstrate a certain level of materialism in an otherwise sentimental story.
The real plot shows Magdalena (Emily Rios) becoming unexpectedly pregnant at 14, although she maintains her virginity, and Carlos (Jesse Garcia), her gay cousin, trying to make a life for himself despite being disowned by his family...save for his Uncle Tio (Chalo Gonzalez), who takes both of the troubled kids under his wing.
The funny thing is that the most uptight generation is the middle-aged group of parents who cast away their offspring at the drop of a hat in the name of Jesus (or cancel their cell phones and send them off to a faraway school). Uncle Tio is by far the most open-minded character and he is 85.
The story moves along at an easy pace and the 'imperfect' characters have such redeeming qualities, you can't help but root for them.
The only two flaws I found were:
1) The too-predictable death of one of the characters
2) The Elton John CD that stereotypically fell out of an opposite CD case that Carlos was taking to his crush (at least it was "Too Low For Zero" but still - come on!). We could tell by the threesome scene that Carlos was homosexual, so that bit was totally unecessary. And if the writers wanted to convey embarrasment from one gay man to another, they should have put a Metallica CD in there instead.
Otherwise, Quinceañera is a very authentic narrative reminiscent of the more organic Real Women Have Curves, yet just as smart.