Film & TV

Eva Mendes Toils Away With a Generic Script in "Girl in Progress"

Single mother Grace (Eva Mendes) toils as a maid and a waitress to keep her petulant daughter, Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez), in private school in Seattle. Although the teenager's name translates as "anxiety," she exhibits no fear or apprehension when, inspired by an English class on rites of passage taught by Patricia Arquette, she decides to plot a series of coming-of-age crises that will supposedly expedite her entry into adulthood. To aid her in these mostly debasing, nonsensical episodes, Ansiedad enlists the help of her only friend, wealthy, chubby Tavita (Raini Rodriguez, older sister of Modern Family cutie Rico and just as charming). Like that of all movie adolescents before her, Ansiedad's convoluted scheme is fueled by her rage against Mom, too busy taking orders for crab specials or cleaning the toilet of the married gynecologist (Matthew Modine) she's having an affair with to attend her daughter's chess-club matches. The odd logic of Hiram Martinez's generic script about mother-daughter struggles, flatly directed by Patricia Riggen (2007's Under the Same Moon), requires the leads to share few scenes together — and when they do, unconvincing, flawed matriarch Mendes and junior showboat Ramirez appear to be acting in entirely different movies.

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.