“Girl In Progress”
The critics hate this, because it’s so
predictable, and, to be honest, it is.
Single Mom and pubescent daughter
struggle financially and emotionally through the problems of single adult
dating and early adolescence, but at the end tearfully embrace and re-affirm
one another. Well, that’s certainly
nothing new, so the enjoyment would have to come from either an outstanding
script or incredible performances, and we don’t quite have those, either.
But what we do have, while not exactly Oscar-worthy, is very watchable,
and you root for these flawed characters because something about them
resonates: you think they have good
hearts and they can grow into their better selves.
Single Mom, Grace, is played by Eva
Mendes, who makes the mistake of throwing around her sexuality to attract….a
married man (Matthew Modine, in a solid supporting role).
Grace works as a waitress at a fish restaurant, where the smarmy owner
asks the three food servers to engage in a “responsibility competition” to
see who gets to be in charge while he is away.
Grace has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, besides needing to
allow time for her (clandestine) “romantic” life, so though she loves her
daughter, she’s too preoccupied to notice that she is going through some
Ansieded (Cierra Ramirez) is a cute,
smart little girl who takes to heart what her English teacher (Patricia
Arquette, also in a solid supporting role) is trying to communicate:
the concept of “coming of age.” Ansieded
decides that she needs to “come of age,” and unilaterally decides that
certain steps are needed to hasten that process:
among them, rebelling against Mom, flirting with a “bad boy,”
dressing more provocatively, teaming up with “the bad girls,”
intentionally failing tests (because it’s not cool to be too smart), trying
something completely different (like entering a chess competition), kissing a
guy who doesn’t care for her (just for the experience of emotionless
displays of affection), getting high or drunk, losing her virginity, and
dumping her best friend. She doesn’t
actually go through with all of these, and her hesitant, sometimes
half-hearted attempts to transform herself are part tragic, part comic, part
poignant. But we can’t help but
sympathize with someone who, trying to deal with raging hormones, makes a few
stupid decisions. We just hope the
damage isn’t irrevocable.
So, we’re talking about families, and
friendships, and relationships, and loyalty, and personal sense of
responsibility, and desire for independence, and the temptation to take the
easy way out, and the indefinite postponing of life goals because, well,
they’re just too difficult to attain. Grace
ignores the guy at work who really does adore her, but not when he’s willing
to get himself in trouble to try to help her. Ansieded,
trying so desperately to find out who she is, loses some of herself along the
way, but we want to see her right herself, because, well, we’ve been there,
too, and sometimes it’s not easy finding your way back from there.
Sure, it’s a chick flick.
Of course guys will stay away in droves.
Maybe it’s too schmaltzy and preachy for girls, and too awkward and
unromantic for women. Perhaps it will
struggle to find any audience at all. But
parts of this will leave an impression. And
this teenager Cierra Ramirez is one who just might be ready for that
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,