Movie Reviews
9:38 am
Thu August 24, 2006

Quincearnera

I applaud these directors.

"It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today." Isaac Asimov

There isn't much more that could happen to a 14 year-old Latino girl than occurs in Quincearnera, a stew simmered in the Echo-Park section of Los Angeles. Change is the dominant motif as it affects every major and sub-plot point to the point that nothing is explored in depth while much happens.

Before the celebration of her Quincearnera (15th birthday, when a girl becomes a woman, Magdalena (Emily Rios) is pregnant although the circumstances are questionable if not downright miraculous; bad boy brother Carlos (Jesse Garcia) is gay; they and their old uncle Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez), who has kindly sheltered the two after they are shunned by the family, face eviction as the area is going to gentrification faster than you can say the film's title. The change also visits her dad, who struggles to accept his shameful daughter despite the cultural negativity.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland drive their camera through and around the streets of Echo Park and the yards and living rooms to fulfill the promise of the production company, Kitchen Sink. The kitchen-sink movement in the 50's and 60's especially in England showed basic working class family life, such as Mike Leigh currently does, and still allowed the old higher-class staples of irony, tragedy, and comedy take their rightful place. In Quincearnera, however, the topics are subsumed under the change idiom, allowing the directors to use the gays-smartly-investing-in real-estate motif without much to say other than rents become very high.

Although Magdalena's pregnancy seems to be the center of the tale, the film also touches on the changing fortunes of minorities, the emergence of gays as both owners and landlords, the challenges of adolescence, and the power of family. For those subjects, I applaud these directors.