Monday, June 11, 2007


2006, US, directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's Quinceañera does a remarkably credible job of taking us into a unique Los Angeles neighborhood and capturing the feel and rhythm of a community undergoing great change, with the predominantly Latino area of Echo Park confronted with encroaching gentrification. That larger theme provides the backdrop to a coming of age story that is by turns sweet and poignant - as is often the case - but which remains convincing by virtue of strong acting and the directors' tremendous affection for their characters.

Los Angeles's vast sprawl is reduced to just a few city blocks here, with Echo Park a seemingly self-contained neighborhood that looks towards downtown without ever approaching it (the usually ubiquitous Hollywood sign is nowhere to be seen, enhancing the sense that the city is a series of discrete areas rather than a unified whole). Though Glatzer and Wetsmoreland are themselves partly the agents of Echo Park's gentrification in their offscreen lives, it's clear where their loyalties lie, so much so that the gay couple who might be seen as their surrogates are the film's least sympathetic characters, an interesting tension between on- and offscreen stories. The scenes inside the home of Tio Tomas (the gentle patriarch who gives shelter to two younger members of his extended family) have a particular power, with the camera moving in ways that suggest we are inside a real house rather than a flat cinematic plane. Although the film comes to a kind of crescendo near the end, there's a refreshingly open-ended feel that ensures the leads have a life beyond the limits of the screen.

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