- Running time:
- 92 minutes
- Eva Mendes -
- Cierra Ramirez -
- Matthew Modine -
- De. Hartford
- Patricia Arquette -
- Ms. Armstrong
- Eugenio Derbez -
- Mission Impossible
Girl in Progress (* * out of four, PG-13, opens Friday in select cities) seems like a work in progress.
More script revisions, tighter editing, sharper dialogue and jettisoning a subplot or two might have made it a funnier, more focused and moving story. Centered on a familiar premise of a mature daughter and childish mom and meant to be a dark comedy, Progress is a surprisingly humorless tale.
Though there is a kernel of sharp commentary on immigrant cultures, mostly this is a story of a bright teen whose selfish, immature mom has done a bad job of raising her. Uprooting them constantly, Grace (Eva Mendes) takes on a succession of low-paying jobs and feckless men, despite big talk about pursuing a career in computers. She makes no effort to understand her brainy daughter, Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez), and doesn't bother to show up at her chess championship match, tossing off her daughter's win with a bemused "How nerdy!"
Grace is embroiled in a liaison with a married gynecologist, Dr. Hartford (Matthew Modine). It's hard to get what Grace sees in this smirking jerk, though perhaps they are connected by their similar parenting style of consistently ignoring their children.
Very little feels plausible. After Ansiedad delivers a satirical PowerPoint report in class about her mother, her teacher sends her to the principal's office. When Grace arrives and threatens her daughter in Spanish, the tone is heavyhanded and unconvincing. Also ringing false is the caustic relationship between Ansiedad and the caddish Hartford, who trade cutting barbs. Even small details are off. Ansiedad's English teacher (Patricia Arquette) assigns a complex final assignment about forgiveness to be written in a "200-word essay." That's about half the length of this review.
When Ansiedad learns about coming-of-age stories and rites of passage, she decides to take a shortcut to adulthood by following all the conventions required of the genre. She designs a flow chart to remind her to indulge in a wide range of bad behavior: drinking, stealing, failing tests, losing her virginity in a one-night stand and cruelly taunting her best friend (Raini Rodriguez). Her mother, true to form, doesn't notice the change in her daughter. Then both have epiphanies, and the world is a better place. Nothing approaches emotional sincerity, and the potential for keen observations of mother-daughter dynamics goes unfulfilled.
The dialogue, written by Hiram Martinez, lacks sparkle, and the melodramatic elements of the story juxtaposed with snark makes for an awkward clash of tones. Mendes tries gamely in an unlikable role. But her efforts are hampered by out-of-character plot twists, especially one involving her kindly co-worker, nicknamed Mission Impossible (Eugenio Derbez).
Director Patricia Riggen seems to have fallen victim to the sophomore slump: Her first feature, 2007's Under the Same Moon, was as sweetly endearing as Girl in Progress is clumsy and unmoving.
Movie theaters and showtimes for Girl in Progress in Reno.
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