Real Women Have Curves

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Real Women Have Curves
Real Women Have Curves film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Patricia Cardoso
Produced by Effie Brown
Screenplay by
Based on Real Women Have Curves
by Josefina López
Music by Heitor Pereira
Cinematography Jim Denault
Edited by Sloane Klevin
Distributed by Newmarket Films
Release date
  • January 13, 2002 (2002-01-13) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • October 18, 2002 (2002-10-18) (United States; limited)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
  • English
  • Spanish
Box office $7.7 million (worldwide)[1]

Real Women Have Curves is a 2002 American comedy-drama film directed by Patricia Cardoso, based on the play of the same name by Josefina López, who co-authored the screenplay for the film with George LaVoo. The film stars America Ferrera as protagonist Ana García. It gained fame after winning the Audience Award for best dramatic film, and the Special Jury Prize for acting in the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. The film went on to receive the Youth Jury Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, the Humanitas Prize, the Imagen Award at the Imagen Foundation Awards, and Special Recognition by the National Board of Review. According to the Sundance Institute, the film gives a voice to young women who are struggling to love themselves and find respect in the United States.


18-year-old Ana García struggles to fulfill her dream of going to college while considering family duty, and a tough economic situation. The thought of Ana going to college torments Ana's mother, Carmen, because she wants to keep her family together. Carmen also wants Ana to help work in the family-owned textile factory, run by Ana's sister Estela. The factory itself is in danger of closing; Estela cannot afford to make the rent and pay her employees. Although Ana does consent to spend sweaty summer days working in the factory, she spends her nights writing her college entrance essay for Columbia University and sneaking out to see her caucasian boyfriend Jimmy. Ana defies Carmen (her mother) and applies to college, despite warnings against such behavior. As the summer goes by Ana grows into a confident woman through experiences with Jimmy, and positive self-affirmation. She challenges cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, in favor of a life independent from her family. Despite the warnings of her critical mother, Ana gains support from her sister and father to pursue success beyond the borders of East Los Angeles. She also starts to call out her mother on her critical and emotionally abusive ways.

The film begins in a Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles. An old woman is standing at her front gate, singing enthusiastically. The camera then brings us into the living room of a home on the same street. We see a young woman, Estela (Ingrid Oliu) trying to convince her younger sister, Ana (America Ferrera) to go look after their mother Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros). Carmen is moaning and groaning in bed, looking quite ill.

Ana rolls her eyes and goes into her parents' bedroom. Carmen asks Ana to come nearer, whispering that she needs Ana to cook for the family that day because she is sick. Ana erupts and says she absolutely refuses to miss her last day of high school and stomps out of the room. Moments later, Carmen gets out of bed and is apparently quite alright.

Ana catches two buses to get to her Beverly Hills high school. At the end of the day, her teacher asks her to consider applying to colleges. Ana explains that her family won't be able to afford it, and remarks that "it's too late anyway". Her teacher disagrees and tells her that he knows the dean of admissions at Columbia University and could possibly have her application looked at, even if it is past the deadline. Ana tells him she will think about it.

That night, Ana's family throws her a little party to celebrate the end of her high school years. As the night continues onward, however, the festivities turn to well-worn topics: Her mother nags Ana about not eating too much cake because of her weight, and emphasizes the need for Ana to get married and have children. Ana's grandfather and father try to defuse the situation, until her mother and Estela start discussing the family factory – a very small run-down dressmaking warehouse that Estela runs, and Carmen works at. Carmen tells Ana that it's time she started working at the factory. Estela protests, saying there isn't enough to pay Ana. Carmen insists, saying it's time Ana starts working for the family, no matter how little money she gets paid. Ana wants to do something else, but doesn't have a job. At that moment, her high school teacher arrives at the house, and asks to talk to Ana's parents about the possibilities of Ana going to college. Ana's mother is resolute, saying that there is absolutely no way Ana will go away. Carmen says Ana belongs at home and that's the end of the story. Ana's father seems open to the idea, but does not say anything in the face of his wife's strong stance. He does assure Ana's teacher that he will think about it.

Later, Ana tries to convince Estela to face down the executive in charge of her clothing line to grant her an advance so she can keep the factory running. The woman refuses, and instead Ana convinces her father to give Estela a small loan after Ana sees how hard Estela works to produce clothing she is proud of. Meanwhile, Ana works with Mr. Guzman to produce an essay for her application to Columbia University in New York.

Ana develops a relationship which later becomes sexual with Jimmy, a boy from her high school who thinks that people in the United States have it too easy, because everything is given to them. Carmen confronts Ana about her sexual activities, and Ana insists that she as a person is more than what is between her legs. Later, at the factory, all of the women working there except Carmen grow exhausted of the heat and Carmen's critiques of their bodies and strip down to their underwear, comparing body shapes, stretch marks, and cellulite, inspiring confidence in one another's bodies. Carmen leaves the factory in a huff over her family and co-workers' lack of shame as Ana declares that they are women and this is who they are.

Mr. Guzman comes by the house to inform Ana and her family that Ana has been accepted to Columbia with a scholarship opportunity, though it would mean moving across the country from Los Angeles to New York City. At first, Carmen convinces Ana and the rest of the family that her place is in Los Angeles with her family, but eventually Ana decides that she needs more out of her life and more importantly needs to break free from her domineering mother and her father agrees to support her. At the end of the film, Ana is dropped off at the airport by her father and her loving abuelo while Carmen refuses to leave her room and even refuses to say goodbye to Ana, and the final scenes show her striding confidently through the streets of New York.



Popular media[edit]

Real Women Have Curves received positive reviews for its theme (a positive body image), its realistic portrayal of a Mexican-American family and its acting. The film received an 83% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes[2] and a Metacritic score of 71/100.[3] Elivis Mitchell of The New York Times described Real Women Have Curves as a "culture clash comic melodrama" that is, "effervescent and satisfying, a crowd pleaser that does not condescend."[4] Jean Oppenheimer of The Dallas Observer wrote "One of the strengths of Real Women Have Curves is that it isn't about just one thing; it is about many things. A coming-of-age drama centered on a mother-daughter conflict, it also explores the immigrant experience; the battle to accept oneself, imperfections and all; and the importance of personal dignity."[5] Claudia Puig of USA Today noted "What will undoubtedly resound powerfully with audiences of Real Women Have Curves, particularly women, is the film's message that there is beauty in all shapes and sizes."[6] One of the few negative reviews the film received was written by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, he gave the film a two star rating.[7]


Real Women Have Curves was received with critical acclaim in the academic sphere for its poignant commentary on challenges facing Latina women today. In a study examining beauty standards for Latinas, three researchers interviewed Mexican-American adolescent girls living in Central California to examine "the nature of appearance culture as a source of girls' perceived beauty standards."[8] The study was published in the July 2015 SAGE Journal of Adolescent Research. Researchers found that "the girls pointed to the media as a major source of beauty ideals. The girls were quite critical of European American girls and women who are attracted to unnaturally thin body shapes depicted in mainstream media. Instead, they [the girls interviewed] admire thick, curvaceous bodies common among women of color in pop culture and Spanish-language media."[8]

America Ferrera became a pop icon for many young women, especially Latinas, because she takes on roles where body image issues are prevalent parts of the film (see Real Women Have Curves, Ugly Betty, How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). In the HBO Documentary, The Latino List: Volume 1, Ferrera speaks about her personal experiences growing up in the San Fernando Valley.[9] Ferrera says she remembers watching popular 90's television shows, "but there were moments that would remind me that I was different from everyone else."[9] Ferrera remembers being bullied for having darker skin or being different than the other Spanish speaking girls but she says, "I didn't feel different until someone made an effort to point it out to me."[9] Ferrera went on to say, "when I think about anyone who's marginalized, or made fun of, or dismissed, or hated with some sort of passion; I mean I just see myself, I just think of myself," but she concludes, "there's no person or award, validation, that is ever going to make you more worthy than you already are. The times when its been easiest to love myself is when I've put myself in positions to serve others."[9]

In 2013 Juanita Heredia of Northern Arizona University published an article in the journal Mester, 42(1) that discussed the representation of Latinas in Real Women Have Curves and Maria Full of Grace.[10] The journal article states, "the Latina protagonists in both visual narratives represent an autonomous voice resisting the institutionalization of patriarchy, be it in the family structure or the labor force as well as the containment of sexual expression, as limited choices for women within the space of the city."[10] The article criticizes Hollywood for not contributing "representations of autonomous and powerful Latina and Latin American women figures in mainstream cinema."[10]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Real Women Have Curves at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Real Women Have Curves (2002)". Rotton Tomatoes. Flixster Inc. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Real Women Have Curves". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Mitchel, Elvis (22 March 2002). "Real Women Have Curves (2002) Film Festival Review; Full Figured and Ready to Fight". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Oppenheimer, Jean. "Curve Ball". Dallas Observer LP. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  6. ^ Puig, Claudia (25 October 2002). "Real Women Reflects the Real World" (15D). USA Today. 
  7. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (30 January 2003). "Real Women Have Curves". Guardian News and Media Limited. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Romo, Laura; Mireles-Rios, Rebeca; Hurtado, Aida (9 July 2015). "Cultural, Media, and Peer Influences on Body Beauty Perception of Mexican-American Adolescent Girls". Journal of Adolescent Research: 1–28. doi:10.1177/0743558415594424. 
  9. ^ a b c d Greenfield-Sanders, Timothy. "The Latino List: Volume 1". Freemind Beauty & Perfect Day Films. HBO Documentary Films. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Heredia, Juanita (2013). "From the New Heights: The City and Migrating Latinas in Real Women Have Curves and María Full of Grace". Mester. 1 (42): 3–24. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Real Women Have Curves". American Film Showcase. USC School of Cinematic Arts. Retrieved July 30, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Real Women Have Curves". Sundance Institute. 2002 Sundance Film Festival Archives. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 

External links[edit]