Ansiedad’s name is a literal translation of the Spanish word for anxiety. She is a nervous wreck of a teenager, a young Latina who is ready to grow up but doesn’t know how.
Luckily for her (or unluckily), the coming of age stories she’s reading in school and films like Mean Girls and The Graduate become her instant guide to adulthood. Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) vows to learn everything about passing into and out of adolescence through these coming of age narratives.
To director Patricia Riggen’s credit, Girl in Progress (2012), is innovative in its approach to the coming of age movie. At the same time that it reviews classic films in the genre, it also plays on their major themes and, in a way, critiques their logic.
The narrative’s irony is summed up by Ansiedad’s goal: “I need somebody to recognize my potential and then watch helplessly as I throw it all away.”
Ansiedad travels down a rather traditional yet nontraditional path through adolescence. She plots her journey, from the goody-two-shoes nerd to a rebel who plans to lose her virginity to a jerk, have a major fallout with her best friend Tavita (Raina Rodriguez), and run away from home. These are all events most sane teens try to avoid, but Ansiedad seeks them out as if they were bullet points on a check list.
Straying from her typical sex kitten role, Eva Mendes plays a person with real goals, dreams, and responsibilities. A single mom, Altagracia, or Grace for short, toils as a maid and waitress. Her whole life is work, bills, and trying to keep her pubescent daughter in check.
The fault in Girl in Progress is that its audience seems unclearly defined. Straddling a demographic fence, in some ways, its plot is too adult to be a young adult movie—such as Grace’s affair with a married gynecologist (Matthew Modine)—but too safe and emotionally simplistic to be a film that would win over adults.
For the most part, the tweens and teen group will be drawn into Ansiedad’s misadventures and hopefully not repeat them.