Girl in Progress Movie Review
Review by Nathan Samdahl (C+)
Girl in Progress is a film that has a lot of positive elements, but that never hits its stride. It's a film I wanted to like more than I did.
First the positives - Eva Mendes (Grace) looks beautiful as always. Girl in Progress also features a promising up-and-comer in Cierra Ramirez, who plays Grace's angsty daughter Ansiedad. Quality supporting performances from Matthew Modine and Patricia Arquette help bring some maturity and gravitas to the story (a la Richard Jenkins in Friends With Benefits). And at its core, Girl in Progress most importantly has a good heart, or at the least good intentions.
Now some of the negatives.
Above all else, the script falls a bit short of perfection. The main issue is Ansiedad's storyline. With many elements reminiscent of Lindsey Lohan's journey in Mean Girls, this is familiar territory. There is no problem with that - we all love these stories - but Ansiedad's progression just doesn't feel earned or genuine. In several scenes, such as when Ansiedad abandons her only friend, who is deemed "uncool", in the lunchroom in favor of the bitchy popular girls, the filmmaker play the material so on-the-nose that they can only feel generic and stiff. I appreciated Ansiedad's attempts to hasten her transition to becoming a woman, but my lack of belief in her sincerity really took me out of the story.
Some of the other performances also are a bit too overplayed, such as Eva's quirky, yet endearing co-worker Mission (played by Eugenio Derbez). You want to love him, but it's a struggle. Also, being a native Seattleite, I still take some offense to everything in Girl in Progress baring little resemblance to the city (if they're going to film the movie in Vancouver, why don't they just set it in Vancouver!).
Girl in Progress is a good attempt with all the story elements and beats in place, but without more grounded characters and unique moments this films loses much of its muster. Look, though, for Cierra Ramirez to potentially be a breakout young star in coming years. Her charisma, espeically in the film's first scene (it's the best one of the movie), is sure to capture some attention.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.