Wednesday, August 09, 2006

FILM: Quinceañera

Quinceañera is a vivid portrait of two teenagers in a traditional Mexican family in Echo Park (Los Angeles), and how their family relationships are strained and tested by Carlos being gay and his younger cousin Magdalena getting pregnant. Both are ostracized by their parents, but are taken in by their great-uncle. As they come to learn more about their uncle, and about each other, and some of the hard lessons of life, they realize what it really means to be a family. Both Emily Rios (Magdalena) and Jesse Garcia (Carlos) give great performances, tough exteriors belying emotion underneath. And Chalo Gonzáles is marvelous as the venerable Tio Tomás, pushing his cart up and down the hills of Echo Park, with plenty of time for everyone. Writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have done a tremendous job with a touching story, genuine characters and dialog, and a setting that is almost a character in itself. Their picture of Mexican-Angelino family life seems authentic to me (though I'm no authority), and their picture of Echo Park is certainly authentic (as I can attest, since I live here, and was intimately familiar with most every scene -- that's my 'hood!). Glatzer and Westmoreland have surpassed their previous films, and deserve all the accolades coming from Cannes and other film festivals.

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