From Prada to Nada

It isn’t Sense and Sensibility, and it isn’t modern filmmaking at its very finest, but it’s a fun 107 minutes, even if it felt longer at times.

The opening sequence is choppy and awkward. If you don’t have a headache by the time you finally meet the Dominguez sisters, you might get one from being irritated at their being portrayed as such extremes (e.g. Trendy, superficial Mary makes a nasty comment early on about her sister Nora having never been kissed; studious Nora seems to think nothing of her car bumping into her sister’s on her way home from the library). The film often felt over-handed (even the music, which begins as English lyrics and segues into Spanish when the girls move to East LA, start to learn Spanish, and feel less physically threatened by their amazingly eloquent, soft-spoken, tattooed neighbors. I was conscious while it was happening that several of the details should have emotionally moved me (the girls lose their dad far too young and without warning, and they tease him about his mustache), but I didn’t feel the emotional punch because the characters and their lives did not seem believable during those key first 10 minutes.

That’s not all. Events happen too quickly (one moment, Mary is at death’s door, and the next some candle-wax restores her to life?) and too illogically (how is the Prada purse the aunt sells the car-buyer not filled with Mary’s stuff, and why is the aunt pocketing all that cash and cackling like some sort of witch?). By contrast, the legal triumph moves a little TOO quickly, as does the transformation of the girls into Beverly Hills Americans of Mexican heritage to East LA home girls with Spanish accents who think themselves Mexican-American.

How does it turn out that LA girls with Spanish-speaking servants, father, and aunt speak NO Spanish?

There are many deviations from the book, as you would expect from a modern Latina remake, some comfortable (Gabriel Jr’s leaving his horrible “Fanny Dashwood,” “Willoughby” being married) and some really not (why’d they get rid of the mom? Margaret? John Dashwood? Why does only the Edward character keep his Austen name?).

Some plot lines were left unfinished: the Willoughby character never tells the Elinor one how miserable he is; Colonel Brandon is already super hot, so it’s hard to understand why she doesn’t go for him in the first place—kudos to Wilmer Valderrama; we never see what happens to the Lucy Steele character, who has no funny stupid sister and isn’t funny herself and has no relationship with the Elinor one; likewise, Edward has no brother who inherits the family fortune, so Elinor never has to choose; and we never get to see the horrible Fanny character take a plunge into misery of her own making. Does Nora go back to law school? Did she somehow leap from classes to legal exec because she marries well? What happens to Mary’s eating habits? She’s still wearing the revealing dresses by movie’s end: did she learn to manage carbs despite her deep fears that being poor would lead to more pounds and less Prada?

Despite these flaws, the film became more enjoyable to watch as the characters became less extreme and thus we started to care what happened to them, and to the nice gentlemen whose hearts they snagged. I’m glad I saw it, and that it ended as it did (though maybe a few minutes earlier would have been nice).

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Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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