While My Big Fat Greek Wedding broke box-office records in 2002, Real Women Have Curves did a better job of keeping it real. Set in the vibrant environs of East Los Angeles, with a breakthrough performance by Latina newcomer America Ferrera, this comedic drama takes a familiar subject--a bright teenager struggling to define her identity--and turns it into an authentic celebration of feminine empowerment. Eighteen-year-old Ana (Ferrera) has scholarship potential, her first boyfriend, and a chubby figure that her similarly overweight mother (Lupe Ontiveros, perfectly cast) won't stop harping about. Mom insists that Ana work in her sister's dressmaking sweatshop, continuing a family tradition that can only break her spirit. How Ana defies this fate--and how director Patricia Cardoso captures the proud tenacity of several full-figured seamstresses--is what makes this film (adapted from a play by Josefina Lopez) so uniquely refreshing. Greek Wedding made more money, but Real Women--which is just as funny--makes a lot more sense. --Jeff Shannon
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