Tuesday, January 31, 2006


2006 Sundance Film Festival
★ ★ ★
Quinceanera, for the Hispanically challenged, is a traditional ceremony and celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, her transition from childhood to maturity. In this movie, the event centers on Magdalena, an otherwise role model of a girl and daughter of a part-time preacher who gets pregnant before her 15th birthday, despite her claims to have never had intercourse. To manage the conflict at home, she moves in with her Great Uncle Tomas, who also houses Carlos, her tattooed and tough-guy cousin who is also estranged from his parents, mainly because he is gay.

By all accounts, this movie ought to be panned. The script, while evenly paced, never rings true. Most of the characters are flat. The acting lacks inspiration or enthusiasm. But still, I was moved, because at the heart of the story is the impact of Uncle Tomas, who with the wisdom of the aged is able to look beneath the surface of these two young cousins and see only goodness. He is filled with kindness and compassion, although the movie never let’s itself get nearly as schmaltzy or overly sentimental as my description of it.

I suppose this idea of accepting the differences in people—Hispanics, gang-bangers, gays and pregnant teenagers—is tired and hackneyed in its political correctness. But there’s something about a glimmer of truth that is warm and enlightening. So, that said, I dug the movie.

Side note from the writer/directors: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are gay and live in Los Angeles. Wash is British. And it so happens that two of the main characters in the movie are gay lovers, living in Echo Park in Los Angeles, one of whom is a Brit. So naturally, someone in the Sundance audience asked them if these characters were, you know, autobiographical at all. And naturally, they said no, it was just a coincidence. And I guess I believe them because they had the guts to write these characters as not entirely likable. In fact, if Pat Buchanan had written he script, someone would have accused him of being homophobic. Believe it, or Not.


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