Girl in Progress

| September 13, 2012

There have been many movies where there’s a bunch of teen angst–either the young boy is upset and rebels against his father, or the young teen girl figures she knows everything, and her mom can’t tell her how to live her life. Girl in Progress is a movie, also, about teen angst, and the young teen girl in this case is Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) and the mom Grace is played by the beautiful Eva Mendes. Ansiedad is looking to find herself after she can’t get much attention from her mother, who is always busy with the next man in her life. But there are twists in this comedy that makes it a bit more refreshing.

When Ansiedad’s English teacher, Ms. Armstrong, played by Patricia Arquette, introduces her students to classic coming-of-age stories, Ansiedad is inspired to skip adolescence and jump-start her life without mom. This is so convenient, because she has become irritated with her mother, as she is totally being ignored. She figures that by going through her first crush, first kiss and heartache, as well as losing her virginity to the scum of the earth, she will show her mother that she doesn’t need her, after all.

Ansiedad enlists the help of her loyal friend, Tavita, to plot her shortcut to “adulthood.” But as Ansiedad starts to spread her wings and teach her mom how to be the adult, her mother is quite confused by the entire process. At about the same time, however, Grace has to act her age—so to speak—as her boss at the seafood restaurant where she works as a waitress has to go out of town, and he leaves the management of the place up to Grace. Grace works hard at this endeavor, as she also tries to shake loose her married boyfriend, after she is fired from the job as his part-time housekeeper. Ansiedad eventually loses Tavita’s friendship, because Ansiedad knows that losing a best friend is also a rite of passage. Afterward, Ansiedad is more bent on making friends with the bad girls at the school, so she can be invited to the best high school parties in town.

But losing everything that is childlike and trying to grab all that is grown up doesn’t turn out to be just as Ansiedad had hoped. Tavita faces a medical emergency as a result of her relationship with her new boyfriend, and Ansiedad feels pretty badly about the entire situation. At the end, she figures that it’s not good to rush life, and Grace ends up as worried and concerned about her daughter as she had ever been. Finally, the two are on the same page, and each is fine with the mom being the mom and the daughter being the daughter.

I felt for Ansiedad, as she tried to reason and reach out to her mother when she needed her most; and I also felt for her when she was just out on a limb, trying to play grown up and having to absorb all the shocks associated with changing from a girl to a woman. Mendes is good in this role, as she is a favorite of mines. She is a beautiful woman who had to downplay her good looks and sex appeal in this funny, yet serious, mother-daughter movie.

In the end, both mother and daughter seemed to gain something from the entire experience, and the end scene when the two of them are just hanging out at the bus stop is priceless. They have finally found common ground.

Girl in Progress is available on DVD, Digital Download and On Demand September 11. Visit

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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