Girl in Progress

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Girl in Progress Movie Poster Image
Coming-of-age story cautions against forcing adulthood.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Girl in Progress illustrates the importance of open communication between parents and children. Grace isn't really aware of what Ansiedad is going through, and it causes an emotional rift that could have been avoided had the two talked more openly and shared their feelings. Ansiedad's misguided attempt to grow up offers an important example of how trying to act like a grown-up before you're ready is a bad idea. She hurts her best friend, nearly destroys her academic career, and nearly has sex for the worst of reasons.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not many positive role models, especially considering that Grace is openly the "other woman" in an adulterous relationship and actually flaunts the affair in front of her daughter. (But to her credit, Grace doesn't steal or take money from her lover to pay for Ansiedad's tuition.) The doctor doesn't seem to mind carrying on his affair while lying to his wife. Ansiedad is a shiftless teen desperate to become an adult: she lies, steals, manipulates, and insults others as long as it's part of her rite-of-passage checklist.


Ansiedad describes her mother as promiscuous, and Grace is shown getting ready in a sexy outfit to meet her lover, a married man. Grace and the doctor are shown half dressed on the floor (presumably after sex); they kiss a few times. Ansiedad tells a guy she wants him to "take her virginity" at a party; they proceed to share a kiss (her first), and then the guy is shown shirtless in the bathroom fumbling with a condom. Ansiedad strips down to her bra and panties and then throws her panties on the floor. Although they don't end up having sex, they run out of the room, and everyone calls Ansiedad a slut, as the guy says, "I hit that."


Teens say the word "retarded" or "tard" many times, and in one scene, a bunch of people chant the word "slut" to Ansiedad. One girl is called "fat" and a "cow." Language also includes "stupid," "shoot," "damn," etc.


Grace drives her friend's old Volvo wagon, and a BMW is shown a couple of times. A Macbook Pro makes a brief appearance.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink -- a lot -- at a couple of parties. Ansiedad convinces an adult to buy a bottle of tequila (under the premise that it's a birthday gift for her mother), and she gives it to the group throwing the party. A couple of adults smoke cigarettes and/or a pipe. Graces drinks so much at a party that she wakes up hung over. A male nurse at a home for the elderly regularly drinks from a hidden flask.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14 and 18+-year-old Written bySeattle Mommy February 28, 2021

Horrible movie

The mother was awful and had constant questionable behavior. I felt so sorry for her neglected daughter. A character in the movie was a victim of domestic viole... Continue reading
Parent of a 7 and 14-year-old Written byBestchoice December 22, 2013

Rate from opinion !

I think girl in progress sends a positive message to viewers , but has sexual content so I'd stick to the rating or watch it before you let someone under... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 26, 2012


this movie was suppose to give a positive message, but all it showed was that it was cool to bully when Ansiedad bullied her friend to be cool, plus it was bori... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHmb2008 April 17, 2014

wasn't expecting what i saw

I wasn't expecting that movie to turn out how it did. It was really good but there was a big chunk of the movie about sex. Sex with a married man and sex t... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age tales

Themes & Topics

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