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Quinceañera has had a lot of buzz. It won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It was also shown at the Nantucket Film Festival but I couldn't work it into my schedule. So, I finally saw it at my local rundown cineplex that is the only place in Baton Rouge that shows this kind of little Indie movie. Quinceañera definitely is the classic, small, feel-good, kind of Indie movie that gets film festival crowds excited. And it has done OK in the theatres, grossing about $1.6 million. That's nowhere near Little Miss Sunshine, of course, which has grossed $53 million. Anyway, Quinceañera tells the story of a teenage girl (Emily Rios) who is growing up in a Mexican-American neighborhood in Los Angeles. She is getting ready for her Quinceañera, which is the Catholic equivalent of a Bat Mitzvah. But, she finds she is having trouble getting into her dress for the ceremony and it becomes obvious that she is pregnant. She has a boyfriend (J.R. Cruz) but swears that they have never done "it." Her parents don't believe her, so she is thrown out of the house and goes to live with her uncle (Chalo González) and cousin (Jesse Garcia). Her cousin was previously thrown out by his parents for being a gang member. But he is trying to clean up his life. Their uncle is a great guy who keeps the family together. The cousin is also gay and starts a thing with the gay couple (David W. Ross & Jason L. Wood) who are their landlords. Emily and her uncle and cousin form a protective family unit that weathers the storms until they are evicted by the gay guys one of whom is jealous of the cute cousin. There are some ups and downs but, as you may guess, it all ends more or less happily.
Quinceañera is a yet another coming of age film. In some ways, it is similar to Maria Full of Grace. Both are Latin-American movies about young women who become pregnant and have to find their own way in the world, that were made by white, male, Anglo writer/directors. But Maria Full of Grace has a lot more going for it, with more a complex plot, more varied characters and better production values. Quinceañera is much smaller and simpler. It is very sweet and, although it doesn't have jazzy direction and quite a few of the actors are amateurish, it works. This is due mostly to the three main characters, Emily, her uncle and her cousin. The actors playing them are great and rise way above everything else to create something that feels real. Best of all, is Chalo González who plays the uncle. He is amazing and you will wish that he were your uncle. Heaven knows how old he i,s but according to his filmography, he hasn't done much since he appeared in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and The Wild Bunch, two Sam Peckinpah classics of the 70's. Emily Rios is a newcomer, who is actually about the age of the character she is playing. She is very natural and carries the movie very well. So, you guessed it. This is another little feel-good film that will make you feel like life is worth living.