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  Publicity Stills of "Quinceanera"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)



In English & Spanish With Subtitles
Director: Emily Rios, Chalo Gonzalez, Jesse Garcia, David W. Ross, Jason L. Wood
Richard Glatzer
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Some Mature Content)

Opening Day: 30 November 2006

Synopsis :

Quinceañera is a look at what happens when teenage sexuality, age-old rituals, and real estate prices collide. It is a reinvention of Kitchen Sink drama, fueled by the racial, class, and sexual tensions of a Latino neighborhood in transition.

Magdalena (Emily Rios) is the daughter of a Mexican-American family who runs a storefront church in Echo Park, Los Angeles. With her fifteenth-birthday approaching, all she can think about is her boyfriend, her Quinceañera dress, and the Hummer Limo she hopes will carry her on her special day.

But a few months before the celebration, Magdalena falls pregnant. As the elaborate preparations for her Quinceañera proceed, it is only a matter of time before her religious father finds out and rejects her.

Forced out of her home, Magdalena moves in with great-great uncle Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez), an old man who makes his living selling champurrado (a Mexican hot drink) in the street. Already living with him is Carlos (Jesse Garcia), Magdalena’s cousin, a tough cholo who was thrown out by his parents.

Carlos does not disguise his disapproval of Magdalena’s arrival. The back house rental where Tomas has lived happily for many years is on a property that was recently purchased by an affluent white gay couple (David W. Ross and Jason L. Wood) -- pioneers of gentrification in the neighborhood. Inevitably, worlds collide when they become entangled in the lives of their tenants.

As Magdalena’s pregnancy grows more visible, she, Carlos, and Tomas pull together as a family of outsiders. But the economics of the neighborhood are turning against them. Ultimately, this precipitates a crisis that threatens their way of life.

Movie Review:

“Quinceanera” has an understandably broad appeal in its keenly observant and unassuming exploration of a Mexican American family and the extending community. And that proved to be the case when it seized both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury prizes at Sundance, a feat unheard of in these times of divided opinions. It gladly wears its optimism and giddy exuberance on its sleeves when it introduces us to the innocent charms of its ingénue, Magdalena (Emily Rios) during a zestful celebration, a rite of passage for young women called a quinceanera. But will Magdalena’s own quinceanera be as joyful?

When the threat of an extra mouth to feed comes looming over her family’s celebratory mood, the shamefaced Magdalena finds herself exiled to her great-uncle’s rented apartment in a building owned by a duo of gay white yuppies eager to cash in on the burgeoning property market. She finds herself sharing a common but uneasy bond with Carlos (Jesse Garcia), another family member ousted because of his sexual preference.

The writer-directors in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland do not condemn the conservatism of the immigrant Latino community. Their social commentary is primarily concerned with the ones that are forgotten, misplaced in the functioning society’s own religious principles and way of life. Astutely crafting a smooth flow and a nicely paced narrative, it has an astonishing amount of detail and observations in its compact and decidedly simple story of outcasts in the country’s minority neighborhoods. Transcending its clichéd scenarios, it manages to convey a sense of longing in the pariahs while they huddle together in a small apartment with problems that can only be sorted by them. Staying clear of odious stereotypes about gangland lifestyles and contrivances about inhabitants of the barrios, it finds an able and authentic footing in its environment that effuses a rare amount of sincerity. In its packed house of flawed but relatable characters, each of them is made real by distinctive and natural performances.

It sympathises with them, it agonises with them and it also offers these roommates something to live for. Never pitying them, there’s an upbeat sense of self-preservation amidst changing social orders in familial ties and the ruthless financially driven gentrification of life-long neighbourhoods. Striking a nerve with a limpid view of the population’s inner demons and better angels, it doesn’t slyly attempt to condescend or amplify struggles of class alienation and economic disparities between the races. And it even seems coy in parallelising the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary with Magdalena’s own self-justification of her guilt.

Not without its necessary evils, the openly gay directorial team almost seem like apologists for their race amidst their respect and affection for the Latino community and culture. This puts a slant on the gay white couple that finds their presence fueling tensions within the makeshift clan of misfits. Lascivious and predatory in their sexual practices, it comes across as a scathing scrutiny against the trend of accessorising young, attractive minorities. Despite the stronger than expected sexual dialogue, it’s inherently heartwarming and free of the pretensions that plague similarly themed films.

Movie Rating:

(Clever and poignant insight into familial values and vital social issues)

Review by Justin Deimen




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