‘From Prada To Nada’ May Lack In Some Areas, But Not As Bad As Some May Think
Amidst 2011’s snow storm, the publicist for this film felt compelled to reach out and ask if I was attending last night’s screening. To be honest with everyone, I was iffy on it seeing as I really didn’t feel this film much, but I’m a man of my word, replied saying I’d attend, and all I kept thinking was this film better be halfway decent if I’m fending off this snow.
The end result was quite surprising.
‘FROM PRADA TO NADA’ without any bush-beating is the Latino version of Ang Lee’s ‘SENSE AND SENSIBILITY’ (1995). Although many may say it’s not a “reboot,” truth is yes, it is, and although I’m pretty skeptical of remakes, ‘FROM PRADA TO NADA’ has its style, vibe, swagger and flavor. Why? Well, it has that Latino touch blended with sprinkles of an Americanized attitude—especially when presenting a story which questions ones’ ethnic background and only looking into it when it benefits you or simply not having any other choice but accepting where your roots originate from.
The story follows Two spoiled sisters—Nora (Camilla Belle), a grounded law student, and Mary (Alexa Vega), an undergrad, superficial, party girl—who live with their father in a luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills. Mary has become so "90210’ish" she refuses to admit she is of Mexican descent. When dad suddenly passes away, their bratty lives are turned upside down. They discover they have been left penniless and are forced to move into their estranged aunt Aurelia's (Adriana Barraza) modest but lively home in the Latino-centric Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA. Like typical rich brats, they’re terrified to leave their world of privilege; neither Nora nor Mary speak Spanish or have ever had to take on actual responsibility. The girls gradually adapt to their new environment; their BMW and Prius are traded for the public bus and a used car. As they embrace the culture that for so long they refused to accept, they both discover romance, the true meaning of family, and they learn that the life of ‘PRADA’ actually means ‘NADA’ without love, family and community.
The film’s quite enjoyable, so I’m not really feeling any resentment having stepped out during a snow storm. What I did find odd was the lack of chemistry between Belle and Vega. As much as the writing tried to piece these two together, I think it didn’t work. I’m not sure whose scenes were blended with whose seeing as the film has three writers (Fina Torres, Luis Alfaro and Craig Fernandez), but as witty as all the inside jokes were and connecting a person from a specific background to their authentic and generic jargon was pretty astute. They were able to grasp that part when having supporting characters interacting with each other; however, I didn’t feel it within Mary’s and Nora’s character. It was bland, dull and it peaked every once a blue, however, continuity among their connection lacked so much, I urged for the scenes which involved a low-key, know-it-all, handyman Bruno (Wilmer Valderrama), or an enticing, outgoing, loving, open-minded, Tia Aurelia, who I believe served as a major link throughout the entire film.
The premise is pretty clear for anyone to enjoy and understand. The overall take on the film is a feel good story which embarks on ones’ point-of-view when caught off guard and looking into what was always denied. The film cleverly defines two girls going through their own experiences and coming full circle, however, the subplots were predictable. They played an intricate part in helping expose both Mary and Nora, but I think it would have been a lot more enticing had the story involved Valderrama a bit more. The love story was obvious; the heartbreak was obvious as was the story’s climax seeing as we’ve seen this film before. I also noticed at times how a lot of the writing was geared towards comedy and although I found myself laughing a few times, there were certain scenes which seemed like the comedy was forced—leading to an awkward silence among the audience. It was obvious the joke didn’t turn out right or timing was off due to bad acting. However, when presenting cultural jokes for example which presented culture shock or stereotypes (I.e. Tardiness and full names that go beyond anyone’s comprehension) were brilliantly presented and kudos the writers and director—newcomer Angel Gracia—for having pieced a pretty decent film.
Every actor stood their ground, but don’t expect this film to have any kind of Academy or Foreign Press recognition. It’s a film which is injected for the simplicity of fun and entertainment and also think it’ll allow those who view it—whether Latino or not—to really look deep within their mindset of denial and start focusing on hidden truth(s). Whether ethnic or not or whether those involved with the film had a view with a PSA-like display, in the end, no matter what you try to disguise… Reality always wins!
The only “downfall” this film may experience is its narrow appeal towards the masses. Due to its specific target audience based on genre, there might be a bit of backlash due to not understanding some oft the jokes—mainly Mexican, however, easily understood if you’re of another Latin background—as well as the mixture of Spanish and English. We’ve seen this before within other films which a geared towards other ethnicities and genres, but seeing as how this country has tons of people out there who have a “beef” with Latinos, they’ll start getting all political and retarded… especially as there are a few lines in the film which pokes fun at our current debate on illegal immigration and how much in-fact these human beings—not Aliens—service our contemporary society.
‘FROM PRADA TO NADA’ may lack in some areas, but not as bad as some may think it is. Of course that’s MY take on it, as you would need to judge for yourself.
GRADE: B- / GENRE: Comedy, Drama and Adaptation / ROARS: 3½ out of 5
RATED: PG-13 / RUN TIME: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
STARRING: Wilmer Valderrama, Adriana Barraza, Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Kuno Becker
DIRECTOR: Angel Gracia
(Opens Fri, Jan 28, 2011)
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