06 March 2012

Girls' Movie Night: "From Prada to Nada"

When I post about Girls' Movie Night, I am usually talking about watching movies with my pals Cherry and Maestra.  However, these days I watch more movies with my own girls C1 and C2. This past Sunday C1 and I watched From Prada to Nada. It was an enjoyable film but not quite what I thought it would be.

I don't remember seeing a lot of publicity for From Prada to Nada when it was released in early 2011, but what I did see made it sound like your typical Disney romp. The plot synopsis -- two rich sisters who have to move to the poor side of town when the family's money runs out -- reminded me of Material Girls, a 2006 film starring Hilary and Ashley Duff that was fun but a bit on the silly side. I would classify From Prada to Nada as a light drama rather than a comedy like the Duff sisters' film.

This film is a Latino version of the Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility. The two sisters (Camilla Belle and Alexis Vega), lost their mother at a young age and then lost their father on his birthday. At the funeral they find out that their father had an affair that resulted in a brother they never met. He is entitled to one-third of the fortune, but it turns out that their father lost all the money in the stock market. All that is left is the house, and the milquetoast half-brother lets his arrogant wife (April Bowlby) kick the sisters out of it. They go to live in with their poor aunt (Adriana Barraza) in East LA, and this is where they get more in touch with their Mexican roots.

I liked the casting of this film for the most part. In particular, it was nice to see April Bowlby play something other than an airheaded blond. The only false note for me was the casting of  Wilmer Valderrama as the love interest for the younger sister, played by Alexa Vega. There wasn't a problem with his acting at all, but his age was an issue for me (he is 11 years older than Vega). It didn't bother C1 at all, probably because she just discovered That 70s Show in syndication so she thinks of Valderrama as a teenager. I, however, have the reverse problem; I can't help seeing Vega as the girl from the Spy Kids franchise being hit on by a grown man.

I've never seen a telenovela but I have seen several of what I imagine is its Asian cousin, the Bollywood film. Take away the music and this film has the feeling of a Bollywood film to me. Where many American films seem to have one major plot point and all the action revolves around that, films in the Bollywood style have a lot going on. For your two hours you get surprise relatives, star-crossed lovers, misunderstandings, a bit of comic relief, and a near-fatal accident or disease, and a happy ending. From Prada to Nada fit that mold for me.

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