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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.67%
Worth A Look60%
Average: 13.33%
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Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 9 user ratings

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How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer
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by Chris Parry

"My Big Fat Latino... Nah, scratch that. It's just a damn fine movie."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: We've all endured a romantic dry spell in our lives. Some of us have endured several. Even many. But if you've ever been in the grip of a sexual drought and looked around you to find everyone in your family is suffering the same malaise, then you're going to relate pretty heavily to How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer. This isn't an Adam Sandler romantic comedy, and it's not a vehicle for Cheech Marin to play weed-loving Latino all over again, this is a family comedy/drama about three generations of Mexican-American women who are just really sick of not having male contact. And boy howdy, is it funny.

The location: An Arizona border town.

The season: The thick of summer.

The players: The Garcia girls - Granny Dona, Mother Lolita and daughter Blanca (otherwise known as Lucy Gallardo, Elizabeth Pena and America Ferrara respectively).

Blanca is a teenage girl with curves in all the right places, but she lives in a shithole, so the only guys she has access to are small town dopes with their penises permanently clutched within their fists. Their lives consist of cars, drinking and screwing anything they can screw, which means Blanca's chosen male is far from the ideal man - but he's from out of town, which makes him exotic enough to make out with.

Blanca's mother would be outraged, and often is, but Blanca's mother really needs a little action herself, even to the point where she considers making a move on her friend's permanently wayward husband (a sleazy Steven Bauer), while yelling at her own mother for doing anything that sits outside the realm of 'being willingly old and stagnant'. While Dona is attempting to make some contact with the world by buying a car (at nearly 80 years of age), Lolita can't believe she'd do such a thing. Why doesn't she just 'be old' and stop doing odd things? Little does she know, Dona is getting more than driving lessons from old Don Pedro, the gardener...

How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer is a true multi-layered comedy that begs the questions, why isn't everyone just going out humping, and when they do, why aren't they taking a little more time choosing who they hump? It may not be a list of questions that need answering, but the conversation that follows is one that exposes far more about people, our prejudices, and the way we see family as being asexual, even though they have the same urges as we do.

The cast is impeccable. America Ferrera, who I've only ever seen before in the criminally-neglected Richard Linklater HBO TV pilot '$5.95 an hour', is top notch as the teenage girl looking for something more, and Lucy Gallardo could not have been better as the grandmother with a life on the side. But they're mere co-stars to the woman who realy lights up this show.

Elizabeth Pena, who tells me that Joey Pants introduces her to people as "Liz Pena.. you remember, she used to be big in the 80's", shows far more than the 'deadpan poignancy' the festival program accuses her of. In fact, Pena is the heart of this film, giving it more than comedy (of which she gives out plenty), but a heart and soul, and even a little regret. She's picture perfect here, and perhaps unsurprisingly, given the fact that the writer/director, Georgina Garcia Riedel, has actually written a female role with substance that doesn't require a 20-year-old anorexia victim to play the part. Substantial roles for middle-aged and senior women are few and far between in Hollywood, but it's clear with this film, and with it's Sundance stable-sister Saving Face, that when writers do actually give such women a role with meat, there is no shortage of qualified womean available to turn that meat into a gourmet feast.

How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer miught just be the second or third best film I saw out of the thirty or so films I witnessed at Sundance 2005, and if My Big Fat Greek Wedding can make $200m, I'm damn sure that this is a film that could do likewise, given half the chance.

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originally posted: 02/12/05 08:19:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/03/08 Randi Romo Loved it..glad to see something that reflects our culture as more than the stereotypes! 4 stars
5/24/08 Hugh Brave, risktaking writer-director deserves credit for this unflinching slice of life. Rare. 5 stars
5/13/08 Lala I wanted to like the film, however the film drags on, only 15 min. of music for entire film 3 stars
2/05/06 sam awesome 5 stars
2/04/06 Carlinhos Brown it's such a great film, I thought America Ferrara gave a great performance as usual, wow! 5 stars
3/11/05 Luz Hoyos Loved the film, worked on it, and agree with you 100%. 4 stars
2/09/05 Robert Olson Brave and beautiful 5 stars
2/01/05 Kris Much too long: ruthless editor needed 3 stars
1/28/05 Jacquelynn Great movie, generational tale of three Latino women. 4 stars
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  16-May-2008 (R)
  DVD: 12-Aug-2008



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