It's easy to judge Grace, the single mom played by Eva Mendes in the new movie Girl in Progress. She uproots herself and her teenage daughter Ansiedad again and again every time life gets difficult. Ansiedad cries out for attention, but Grace is too distracted by her messy love life and the low-paying jobs she juggles to pay the bills.
Girl in Progress is a coming-of-age movie on the surface. But it's not just Ansiedad who needs to grow up. If you've ever felt inadequate or guilty or flaky. If you've ever felt like you've failed your child. If you've ever fumbled the impossible task of mothering in this economy, in this climate, this movie is for you. Leave the santimommy behind.
When we meet Grace and Ansiedad, Grace is in the middle of a tawdry affair with a gynecologist whose house she cleans and working as a waitress at a crab shack. Ansiedad is surviving by her wits -- literally. She's a whip-smart straight-A student and she's up to here with her flaky mom. "You say you're tired as a half-assed excuse for not noticing!"
Ansiedad decides she needs to leave home, but first she must jump through all the classic coming-of-age rituals: Get drunk, lose virginity, dump best friend. Being the adorable nerd that she is she fails spectacularly at most of her milestones (her first kiss is especially hilarious). But some of her actions have serious consequences that hurt people she loves.
Meanwhile, we watch Grace snap out of it and do what a mama needs to do. Eva Mendes reminded me so much of my own sister, also a young single mom who struggled for years (and who is also impossibly gorgeous). Grace is exasperating, flaky, charming, selfish, and generous, as complex a person as any mother can be.
And okay, I'll just say it: EVA IS RYAN GOSLING'S GIRLFRIEND. I know. It so does not matter. But as a Latina nearish Eva's age I am so high-fiving her for that. Also, great acting.
Having said all of that, this is a deeply flawed movie. Sharks are jumped, subplots are abandoned, and everything gets all tied up just a little too neatly at the end. But still, I loved it.
What are your favorite movies about moms?
Image via Panelion