By Don R. Lewis | August 7, 2006

In hispanic culture, a girl becomes a woman on her fifteenth birthday, it’s known as a Quinceanera. Co-Writers/Directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer take us inside the world of Magdalena as she approaches her fifteenth birthday. She’s the daughter of a preacher who doesn’t take to well to the fact that her daughter is recently impregnated. Yet Magdalena, like her namesake, is still a virgin. Or so she says. After her father understandably flips out, Magdelena leaves home and moves in with her Uncle Tomas who is already housing family troublemaker Carlos. Carlos is the black sheep of the family and upon first glance, the opinion of him is well earned. He’s a cholo punk with “213” tatooed on the back of his neck. Yet much like everyone else in this terrific film, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

“Quinceanera” is a pretty great little movie. We see life in Echo Park, Los Angeles as it becomes more and more gentrified. Hipster couples try and mix in with their new hispanic neighbors with mixed results. As Uncle Tomas loads up his shopping cart to sell Mexican drinks to the neighborhood, chicks with perfectly disheveled hair rave aboout “the most raging tameles in Echo Park.” The film also strives be an updated version of the “Kitchen Sink” films of the fifties with gritty, realistic scenes that deal with real life situations. Yet “Quinceanera” doesn’t fall into any cliches whatsoever. Every character is a true individual and they stay true to their nature throughout. I especially like the way characters are introduced and you immediately seek to pigeonhole them as a “gang banger” or “a zealot” and so forth. However here the characters surprise you by not being what you thought they were.

Although it’s a running theme, the film isn’t just a reflection of the way society moves into urban neighborhoods and takes them over. It’s also not about the trials of teenage pregnancy, although it covers that too. “Quinceanera” is mostly about life and growing up in these modern times. Both writers cover all this landscape perfectly and follow each storyline through to believable endings.

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