More soap-opera silly than authentically gritty, Quinceañera springs from the heads of writer/director team Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer as a loving tribute to the Los Angeles neighborhood where they make their home, Echo Park. A quinceañera is basically a girl’s lavish, stops-out 15th-birthday party, and the film is bookended by them. It’s part coming-of-age story, but it’s mostly a self-conscious gentrification drama, showing how the arrival of well-off white folks (including, presumably, the guys who made this movie) starts to move tectonic plates in the old Latino neighborhood. It’s good-hearted and gets a lot of mileage out of solid performances by unknown actors, most notably Jesse Garcia as a wifebeater-bedecked cholo who has an unlikely thing going on with the gay couple that owns his property. It’s also flabby, with a weird subplot indicating a forthcoming virgin birth and cloying reaction shots from resident wise-old-man Chalo Gonzáles meant to guide audience sentiment. This is my first year at Sundance, but I suspect this is an ideal Sundance film. You cut it some slack in the thin mountain air, but it’s unlikely to make much of a connection in the world below.

One Reply to “Quinceañera”

  1. So this won the Grand Jury and the audience award! I’ve never been to Sundance yet, but I notice that a lot of award-winners indeed fail to connect at lower altitudes; I liked 40 Shades of Blue for example but greatly preferred Junebug, the Squid and the Whale and Me, You and Everyone We Know, which seems to align with the consensus view.

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