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By Merle Bertrand | April 5, 1999

Grace Santos (Rosie Perez) is the producer of “The 24 Hour Woman,” a morning Regis and Kathy Lee rival that’s every bit as funky and feisty as she is. She’s also newly pregnant; a fact that’s announced on the air to the surprise of husband Eddie Diaz (Diego Serrano), one of the show’s hosts. The announcement creates a buzz for the show which soon grows into a nine month long on-air roar of pregnancy-tracking hype that puts the I Love Lucy “Little Ricky” episode to shame. More to the point, the show cracks the Nielsens for the first time.
While the ratings skyrocket, however, so does the stress. Not even the able assistance of Mattie (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), herself a TV veteran and working mother of three, can compensate for the increased workload and dramatic lifestyle disruptions caused by a squawking baby. Trouble on the home front is inevitable. Grace wants desperately to stay home with the baby, yet resents Eddie’s freedom to jet off to LA to act in an action movie, then soon resents Eddie himself for the “good father” facade he presents on the show. Tensions build and explode, where else, on live TV, creating one hell of a ratings blockbuster. “The 24 Hour Woman” (the movie, not the TV show) is ultimately a very near miss. Director Nancy Savoca tries valiantly to keep things moving along and almost succeeds… but not quite. Grace eventually reaches the breaking point… only to have the film bog down, stuck and whining like a sports car that can’t shift into high. There’s only so many crises you can throw at her, after all, before she reaches the saturation point. When the anticipated meltdown finally does occur, it’s surprisingly forced and contrived, then quickly and all-too easily resolved.
Still, if not perfect, this is a cute movie that camouflages a serious exploration of the joys and perils of working motherhood much like sugar makes food that’s healthy for kids taste good. Perez, equal parts spitfire and cuddly kitten, is dynamite as Grace while the soothing, almost motherly Jean-Baptiste is her perfect foil. Special kudos to Wendell Pierce who gamely takes on the role of Mattie’s Mr. Mom husband.
While the humor definitely seems geared more towards women, it’s universal enough to keep guys stuck seeing their girlfriend’s choice of movie entertained. In any event, “The 24 Hour Woman” definitely beats what’s on TV for real.

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