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Brutuxan Reviews “From Prada to Nada”
For many years, we’ve seen Hollywood continuously attempt to translate certain cultures on to the big screen. Most of the time the execution for these movie are immensely poor, despite ‘somewhat’ good intentions. Another reason stems from the fact that they (Hollywood) love to insert unnecessary drama and portray these people as beings from another world (Hint: most of these businessmen are also really white).
How do they screw this up? Put a handsome white man/woman in the lead role!
There are times where we do get a director like Spike Lee who has a fair understanding of how to properly display his own race on screen. However experienced directors aren’t what sell a film according to Hollywood. What Hollywood believes is that if you’re a black man whose name is not Will Smith (he’s black?!) then too bad, however they can put you in a secondary role. So a secondary role is at least acceptable right?
Nope, this has especially been the case with African Americans, whose roles for a while have been condensed to comedy relief or one of the first people to die in a horror film (and still is to some degree). And what’s worse is that if you plan on going for the Oscar, your best bet lays in these two choices: play as the mystical mentor or a retard.
Right now I bet you’re asking yourself, “Brutuxan, what does this have to do with From Prada to Nada? And is there a way I can virtually punch you in the face?” Aw, but you see this has a lot to do with From Prada to Nada (and the Brutuxan punching app doesn’t come out on iPhone till this fall, sucker).
You see, From Prada to Nada centers around Mexican culture and stars two female leads who probably aren’t Mexican to begin with. No I’m kidding, despite what skin color Alexa Vega is or the fact that Camille Belle looks really orange (seriously, she makes an orange look oblivious in comparison) you shouldn’t judge people based on their superficial appearances.
But skin color isn’t the main point of this article.
What I do want to talk about is that this movie is one of the many attempts to centralize a plot around Mexican culture. What makes this even more of a big deal is that the movie doesn’t have a white lead (as I already hinted at). The movie is actually about these two Mexican girls trying to go back to their natural roots, and gain appreciation for their heritage. Sure it’s not the first time we’ve seen a movie based around Mexican culture (Frida), however to have one in which the main characters are also Mexican is a rare thing.
Shush dammit! Anyway this should be a great thing to witness, right? Well, whoever was writing this seemed to have borrowed a script from the “Ninety-Nine Cent Romantic Comedy Store of Cliches.” Although is there more to From Prada to Nada? Or is it just the illuminating orange glow from Camille Belle that’s tickling my brains nerves?
Personal Cost & Plot
I just want to get this out of the way; I spent $10 just to stream this movie on Amazon. I didn’t watch it from the laptop of some obsessed rom-com fan that constantly shovels low fat ice-cream into her mouth. No, I spent actual money on this because this was one of the first movies I brought up on the January edition of Movie Dumpster. So I became curious and thought this might be a good opportunity to stretch out my typing hands for a bit.
Although I’m sure that some executive at Lionsgate is saying right now in their main office, “Hey! Some dumbass just spent $10 on From Prada to Nada! What a fucking loser! Possibly even a blogger too…..”
Aside from feeling like an idiot, the main plot for this movie is essentially a “what-if” scenario. Like “what-if” Doc Hollywood was combined with a Lifetime channel movie, added with a bit of Mexican drama? That kind of horrifically engineered movie.
To begin, the movie starts out with two young rich girls: Nora and Mary. Nora (as played by Camille Belle) is the nerdy independent type who isn’t very social and is also kind of clumsy. While Mary (as played by Alexa Vega) is just a rotten spoiled bitch. So we follow these girls and their daily lives, Mary loves to go shopping while Nora loves to read.
The movie then shifts to their father’s 55th birthday. What is interesting here is that the father doesn’t really like confrontation, and dealing with his daughters problems. Anyway, hooray! Everything is happy; Nora and Mary are dancing with their father and…..oh wait now he has a heart attack. Oh wait, now he’s dead.
Tragedy strikes again, as the two girls realize that they have become destitute and are forced to move out of their fancy home, thanks to their snobby sister-in-law. By the way, the real reason why they were forced to move out was because their father took “chances." No real specification if he did something illegal or something infringement related, he just took some unfortunate “chances." The girls then move over to east L.A. with their aunt and have realized that conforming to Mexican life is hard! Of course a minute cannot go by without Mary whining about how gross the food looks or how icky the beds are.
So you would expect that the rest of the movie would be about these girls being more understanding and appreciative of their Mexican heritage right? Well, let this pie-chart explain it to you:
That’s right, they spend almost 70% of the film either talking or complaining about the men in their life. Which leads in to this….
Let’s talk about these characters for a bit; first up is Nora.
Nora is, as I already mentioned, an awkward and socially isolate teenager who loves to read. She is the nerdy one in the family and is also the unattractive sibling as well (don’t ask). Here’s what I know about Nora: she likes books, she’s clumsy, she watches over her sister, and is independent (according to the movie). Oh and did I mention that she’s really clumsy, is independent, and likes to read?
Because the movie sure likes to remind you that she does!
Nora’s romantic interest in the movie is a handsome business man named Edward (played by Nicholas D’Agosto).
Right off the bat, the movie insists that we as the gullible audience should consider these two to get together. Despite the fact that we don’t get to know Edward at all, in fact he’s pretty much a tool for Nora’s character arc. Another thing too is that he’s Nora’s supervisor, brother of the snobby sister-in-law, and in general – just a nice guy. I mean look at him, don’t you want to just pinch his cheeks and put him in your Twilight fan fiction?
But to be fair, High School Musical works as well.
Look at these two charming innocent lovebirds right here; they’re bound to be a power couple! Except that they’re really not, in fact it looks like Edward is slightly annoyed by Nora due to her klutziness. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem considering that Nora is also a professional and understanding legal intern. Unfortunately she threw both those traits away when she panicked during a fiesta, and proclaimed to Edward that she is an independent woman dammit! A woman shouldn’t need a man!
Except for when your bitchy sister and the movie tell you that you should……sounds sensible!
Wait, now he’s going to get engaged to some Jennifer Connelly look-a-like after I completely blew him off?! Well now I want to cry! Waaah!
Listen, ladies (especially you young girls), panicking during a situation where you want to tell your boyfriend about how you truly "feel" or want to "do" is a common problem. Hell I do it all the time when I can’t decide which show to watch. Will it be River Monsters or a rerun of Seinfeld? Will it be SpongeBob or Hoarders? Will it be Alf or Cops?
It’s just so hard to choose! However, if your boyfriend suddenly gets engaged to someone (regardless of whether the engagement is fake or not) and you secretly want to hook back up with him, then that’s a problem. Because first off, if he’s getting engaged that quickly after your break-up then your main concern shouldn’t be, “How do I get back with him?” It’s how do I forget this, move on, and let him deal with telling me the actual truth. Second, if you’re the guy in this situation don’t be an ass and don’t listen to your bitchy sister!
Nora without realizing the truth started to stalk Edward, things got settled over court, and Nora’s sister dies. Problem is that, this is a typical romantic comedy so reality doesn’t apply here. What actually happens in the “movie” is that Nora realized that her sister-in-law created the fake engagement party. Eventually Nora and Edward hook back up again, get married, and through lazily written events live happily ever after.
So what about Mary?
Oh Mary, the movie really wants to set out a testament for you. And that testament is to be a spoiled little brat for throughout 90% of the movie, until of course we move to the remaining 10%. Then that’s where we stop writing the bitchy parts, and move onto the friendly and less bitchy parts. I could easily summarize Mary’s personality in two words: Paris Hilton. One of her first lines in the movie is when she walks inside her mansion and sees a bunch of Mexican workers and says, “What is this, Tijuana?”
So who’s the love interest? To be honest this part threw me off, shockingly it turns out that the movie had two romantic interests set-up here for her. A Mexican professor named Rodrigo Fuentes who works at Mary’s community college, and this guy….
This guy’s name is Bruno (played by Wilmer Valderrama). Bruno is the down-to-Earth sensitive Mexican guy who paints, fixes your car and gives you dreamy eyes while doing it. He’s essentially the sexy neighbor next door with a heart of gold; of course all that Mary sees is some dude with a tattoo. Because Mary’s standards are high, she doesn’t want some schmuck off the street, she wants class! That form of classiness comes in the shape of Rodrigo Fuentes who teaches one of Mary’s classes.
Mary realizes at that point that true love isn’t about dating someone who’s barely able to pay off his electricity bills. No, true love is about marrying someone who’s possibly 20 years older than you and is also probably married to someone else who you’ve never even met! There is a problem though, and it’s that Mary wants to show off her upper class prowess to her boyfriend, but doesn’t have the proof on display. Luckily all she needs to do is have him drop her off at some random mansion, claim it to be hers, and walk back home without relying on help from him at all.
Nice work there Mary, however Fez, uh I mean, Bruno is just sitting there at the fiesta by his lonesomeness just waiting for some companionship! That’s okay, because he just sat next to Nora, who will definitely listen to some of his problems……for about a minute or two (and then leave and talk to Edward about how independent she is). So what happens to Bruno from here on out? Well, we see him at the end teaching kids about painting, love, and shit, but that’s it.
Since Bruno’s out of the picture, what happens to Mary after the big fiesta? Well both she and Nora visit their sister-in-law, who seems to invite them out of hatred. Nora talks to Edward (as I’ve already went into) and Mary talks to her dreamy boyfriend…..who doesn’t remember the night they had sex…..and the fact that he brought his wife to the party. Ouch, what a low blow that was! What do you have to say to that Mary?
Aw, Mary don’t cry! Hold on, why did it rain all of a sudden? And why are you starting the car? Are you sure you should be doing this since you’re emotionally reck-oh shit!
Okay it was actually a car crash, this still looks cool though!
Mary! Oh my god, why would you do something like that?! Was it because nothing was happening in the last 60 minutes?!
Regardless of that minor incident, Mary lives thanks to the power of some Mexican rituals (no, I’m not kidding). Afterwards, Nora drags out Mary on a wheelchair and brings her back home. Mary then strolls over to Fez’s, uh, I mean Bruno’s house to apologize and reclaim her spot as a proud Mexican American.
Positive & Negative, Yin & Yang, Peanut Butter and……Basil?
As you can tell by the title, this is where I talk about the issues and praises I have toward this movie. Problem is that while I have a lot of negative things to say, I don’t really have much nice things to say either. Certainly I don’t tolerate a negative review just for the sake of being negative; however I will make an exception here. But before I list all the wrong, unusual, and “positive” aspects about this movie, let me list out the facts. First off, the movie is directed by Angel Gracia.
Apparently his IMDB profile picture is a blue box and a cup. This makes sense considering the lack of human intelligence in this movie.
Gracia’s (Or is it Garcia? Huh, weird) resume consists of a short film called The Three Cornered Hat and a TV movie called 5NY. It’s hard to judge this guy’s track record because he hasn’t really done much. So let’s skip to the writers, who are Fina Torres, Luis Alfaro, and Craig Fernandez. The only stand out of the bunch is Torres who’s written Habana Eva and was one of the writers for The Leap Years (no relation to Leap Year starring Amy Adams). Now why is Torres the standout of the bunch?
Well let’s read the second IMDB plot summary for Habana Eva:
“In a Havana, shaken by Fidel's retirement, a young seamstress, trapped in a sweatshop job, dreams of designing beautiful dresses. Frustrated by her lazy, though adorable Cuban boyfriend, she meets a sophisticated expatriate Cuban-Venezuelan who dazzles her with a glamorous future. After many deceptions and surprises, Eva has to choose between the two men she loves. Hers is an unexpected decision... a humorous metaphor of Cuba's options for the future. “
- IMDB, written by Los Angeles Latino Film Festival.
You see it? Essentially the plot is revolved around a young girl who has big dreams, but is split between her lazy boyfriend and a sophisticated man. If you guessed “every other romantic comedy” I couldn’t blame you, but this is Mary’s arc! Honestly if you just tweaked those traits just a bit, you still wind up with Bruno and Rodrigo.
This makes me assume that Torres was in control of 20% of the script, while the rest was manufactured by Lionsgate (and that Alfaro and Fernandez worked on a couple lines of dialogue). Which transitions into the problems I have with this movie –
1. Lazy writing.
a. The movie consists of nothing but cliches seen in a ton of other bland romantic comedies. In fact I don’t think there was any writing at all, just copying and pasting.
2. What the hell do you want to be?!
a. Do you want to be a movie that details the ups and downs of Mexican culture? Do you want to be a drama that focuses on the hardships of two girls transitioning to a different lifestyle? Or do you just want to be a romantic comedy? I don’t care what you choose, but you can’t be all three because clearly you are not capable of weaving all three subjects/genre’s together!
3. Lazy editing.
a. Three clothing montages set to Disney type pop music?! Three?! But of course I can’t just spend an entire paragraph explaining why it was so wrong in the first place. The editing in this follows the same formula as problem #1, meaning let’s just copy and paste most of the scenes from other romantic comedies. It makes me wonder if Wilmer Valderrama got most of his scenes cut, because he’s barely in the movie.
To break it down, there are scenes where minor characters lines are cut or are missing. This is because either the director didn’t care or the marketers behind this movie wanted to focus on the two main starlets. Like I said, it’s just mostly lazy.
4. Exaggerated characters.
a. This stunned me because I actually didn’t mind Nora at the beginning. Yeah, Mary’s a bitch, but she’s not, well, okay she’s a bitch. However Nora is the shining light here in the middle of nothing but darkness. That is until we reach the fiesta and see just how much of an exaggerated romantic comedy lead she is. It’s like before the fiesta she studied under sensei Katherine Heigl on how to be independent.
If you watched any of Heigl’s movies though, you know that she’s not being independent but instead just acting like a “you-know-what” (rhymes with “hunt”). Nora doesn’t quite master the “acting like a fucking you-know-what” technique, but instead just angrily lets Edward know that she’s a woman. How unnecessary.
a. Speaking of cliches, Mary is a living romantic comedy cliche in flesh form. Most of the time she just complains, moans, and goes off about how classy Rodrigo is and why Nora should understand the real meaning of “true love." By the way, the movie actually supports Mary’s view and believes that Nora should learn a lesson or two from her. Anyway there honestly isn’t much to Mary that we haven’t seen before. Honestly, who the hell is suppose to like this person?
1. To some degree…..their relatable.
a. This is more of a personal praise considering that, yes, I am half Mexican. So right from the get-go I started to relate to these characters simply because of one thing: they can’t speak Spanish (and I can’t). Yep, but it was also more than that. You see these characters do want to learn (okay, aside from Mary) and want to get better at whatever they’re doing.
So yeah I’m racially biased, but what can I do about it? Honestly?
2. Chemistry between Nora and Mary is not badly written…..at times.
a. I wouldn’t call this a saving grace, but it is nice to see both these characters getting along and helping each other out. Although while these interactions are decent, they do not last long.
1. Looks like indie movie, smells like indie movie, must be indie movie!
a. The movies script feels like it came straight from the bowels of Hollywood. Yet because it’s so cheap, it looks like a self-funded small film with some noticeable actors. And you might think that if you were watching this in some bar (ha!) and if it was put on mute.
2. If you’re a white person, you’re an asshole
a. Okay, this isn’t essentially weird, but I had to talk about this. Apparently all the white people in this movie were either in the background or business men. The only character who is a white person was the snobby blonde haired sister-in-law. Once again, there is no subtlety in the writing here.
3. Nora and Mary are the Cain and Abel offspring of the cliche romantic comedy lead
a. Think about it, both these characters are polar opposites of each other and have vastly different taste in men. They are the offspring of a Kate Hudson/Katherine Heigl character!
The True Purpose of this Review
Yes, there is more to this review than constantly calling Mary a bitch. This is the true purpose of this review:
“The studio [Lionsgate], in partnership with Televisa, the media conglomerate based in Mexico City, is betting millions of dollars on that notion. On Tuesday, the companies announced the creation of Pantelion Films, which will release eight to 10 movies annually over the next five years that are aimed at Hispanic moviegoers in the United States-”
- Brooke Barnes, Miami Herald
And no, this has nothing to do with Pantelion going on to make more films. Why am I not worried? Well because of this:
“Hollywood has repeatedly tried to till this ground, without success. In 1999, two Los Angeles companies announced plans to release as many as a dozen Spanish-language films in the United States a year. That effort fizzled after audiences ignored two early releases. In 2003, Universal Pictures scrapped a distribution agreement with Arenas Entertainment, a Latino film label-”
- Brooke Barnes, Miami Herald
So while we’re safe from getting From Prada to Nada 2, what does this make of Mexican/Latino culture in future Hollywood productions? The goal here for Lionsgate is to attract a Latino audience, the same procedure that Tyler Perry uses to get more people into theaters across the country. Problem is that Tyler Perry is an incredibly successful marketer who knows how to ring in film viewers. Lionsgate and Pantelion for one thing have made a mistake by making this a limited release, and not to mention don’t have a “Tyler Perry” figure production. I can’t necessarily tell if the movie bombed (since Box Office Mojo hasn’t listed the production budget, so it is possible) but what this tells us is that sooner or later we will see an influx of experimental movies aimed at the Latino demographic.
Specifically, it’s going to take a while to see if Hollywood can decipher the Latino demographic. But once they figure it out, they’re going to want to cash in on this demographic and continue to reuse that script, actors, and film crew. Over and over again, unless of course if I’m wrong.
“These days, Hollywood is getting better acquainted with the varied talents of Derbez and other prominent actors from Mexico who increasingly are turning up in U.S.-made movies and high-rated TV shows such as Telemundo's "La Reina del Sur" and the Venevision-Univision co-produced "Eva Luna" as well as in advertisements, award ceremonies and on theater stages.”
- Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
Where am I getting at? Well, remember at the beginning of this review when I brought up the incredibly controversial casting system that Hollywood goes through for African Americans? Now bear with me, if Hollywood is still to some degree has that same mentality about casting African Americans as they do today – will Mexicans follow the same path?
Okay this is the part where you say, “What? No way Brutuxan!” But I know that you’re just going to give me an invisible angry stare instead, so I’m moving on. And if you were also planning on this just being some ordinary convoluted review, think again!
All I want is this, don’t release a product to the Latino demographic (or any demographic for that matter) and be lazy minded about it. Matter a fact, if you have no idea what the plot is for your next movie, don’t do it. Last thing I want is another movie starring cliche main female character #1 and cliche main male character #1 and barely have a good 10% around the main topic.
Ultimately, the only good thing I got from From Prada to Nada was that last discussion. The movie is bad, it’s not ridiculously awful, it’s just bad. Although time will tell if this movie starts to resemble a mental image of an endless Enrique Iglesias concert.
For right now, the movie’s problems consist of typical romantic comedy cliches we’ve seen way too many times! The two main characters, despite given their best performances by Alexa Vega and Camille Belle, are bland one dimensional characters. Editing wise, sometimes it’s decent but other times scenes get cut either way too early (in the middle of dialogue) or way too late (after moping around for a good minute while nothing is happening).
On the positive side, I’m glad this got a limited release because god knows the boredom that boyfriends would go through if their girlfriends took them to see this.
Personally I’m not mad at the actors, I’m mad at Lionsgate and Pantelion for putting out just such a mediocre film. Hopefully Lionsgate learned their lesson and will move on from this mess, but if not then I guess it's a matter of time before they announce this....
Update 4/18/2012: In case you’re wondering, yes this blog was indeed quite dated considering that you can now find From Prada to Nada on Netflix. If you have extra time and are forced to want to watch it, well there you go. But I wouldn’t recommend it…..opening Pandora's box comparison and such.