A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even though there's plenty of questionable behavior from both parents and teens in Girl in Progress, it's also a cautionary tale about what happens when you try to be an adult before you're ready for the consequences. In the main teen character's search for rites of passage to experience, she insults and dumps her best friend, steals money from her mother, changes her appearance, manipulates an adult into buying alcohol, and plans to lose her virginity to the school's resident "player." The language is mostly insults (particularly the word "retarded" and its derivatives), but sexual content includes some mature scenes of the mother and her married lover kissing (sex is implied) and a sequence in which a teen casually tries to schedule her "deflowering" (she's shown stripping to her panties and bra, and the guy is seen shirtless as he fumbles with a condom). This is the kind of coming-of-age tale that can spark substantive conversations between parents and kids.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) is a scholarship student at a posh Seattle prep school. She can't stand her unpronounceable name (which literally means "anxiety") or her sexy, rootless mom, Grace (Eva Mendes), a waitress and housekeeper who involves herself with unavailable men (in this case, a married doctor played by Mathew Modine) and then moves when things get ugly. In her attempt to ditch childhood and break out on her own, Ansiedad decides to force herself to go through various rites of passage based on the literary conventions of a coming-of-age novel. She maps out everything she "needs" to do -- including dumping her chubby-but-devoted best friend, Tarita (Raini Rodriguez); getting in with the cool girls; changing her appearance; and losing her virginity to the school's biggest jerk.
Is it any good?
Newcomer Ramirez nails her character's self-aware (but completely misguided) attempt to check off various rites of passage in order to reach the intangible goal of adulthood. The young actress carries her half of the story with confidence, and when she has her "epiphany" that some things aren't worth sacrificing for the sake of becoming an adult, it's difficult not to be touched by her vulnerability. And Disney star Rodriguez is adorably sweet as the put-upon best friend who helps Ansiedad until it hurts too much to be around her self-destructive BFF.
While Ansiedad's cluelessness about the way life works is easily explained by her youth, Mendes' character, Grace, is difficult to relate to or empathize with because she makes such reprehensible decisions -- like flaunting her adulterous relationship in front of Ansiedad or generally seeming unaware of her daughter's life unless the principal calls her in for a meeting. Grace's storyline is less interesting by far than Ansiedad's, although it's clear that Grace is really the one who has some growing up to do. The idea of forcing a coming-of-age story is clever, but the mother and daughter dynamic isn't as volatile or intense as necessary for such a conceit to seem necessary. Still, GIRL IN PROGRESS is exactly the kind of movie that a mother and teen daughter could see and have a lot to talk about afterward.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Girl in Progress' central message about coming of age. How is adolescence portrayed in the movie? Do high schoolers typically experience rites of passage as part of a checklist or timeline?
Ansiedad engages in "rebellious" teen behavior in a forced, formulaic manner that almost makes light of teen sexuality and drinking. Is Ansiedad's attitude about sex realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
How is Grace and Ansiedad's mother-daughter relationship portrayed? How was it unhealthy? Is it a realistic look at the dynamic between single moms and their kids?
The insult "retard" is used in various forms throughout the movie. Even though it's not technically a curse word, it's widely considered a hurtful taunt that shouldn't be said. Do you think it's appropriate for the word to be used, even for the sake of authenticity?
Ansiedad isn't fond of her very Spanish-sounding name. How is her ethnicity explored in the movie? Is being Latina a positive thing or a negative thing for Ansiedad? Why?
- In theaters: May 11, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: September 11, 2012
- Cast: Cierra Ramirez, Eva Mendes, Matthew Modine
- Director: Patricia Riggen
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements, sexual content including crude references, and drinking -- all involving teens
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