Monday, 25 November 2013


“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” - Jane Austen

We watched a chick flick at the weekend, which I was dragged in front of the TV to see, but in the end it wasn’t too bad considering it was an Angeleno adaptation of a Jane Austen novel – Beverley Hills style. It was the 2011 Angel Gracia film “From Prada to Nada”, starring Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Kuno Becker, Adriana Barraza and Nicholas D’Agosto. Fina Torres, Luis Alfaro and Craig Fernandez wrote the screenplay based on Jane Austen’s novel “Sense and Sensibility”.

Two wealthy Beverley Hills sisters, Mary (Vega) and Nora (Belle) not only have to cope with their father’s death on his 55th birthday, but also must survive when they find themselves destitute, seeing their father was bankrupt. They discover they have a half-brother (Pablo Cruz) and are forced by a grasping sister-in-law to move in with their aunt Aurelia (Barrazza) in East L.A.

Mary, the younger sister, is the most spoiled, she speaks no Spanish, and is scared of the vatos. Nora, her sister convinces her to finish college, while she goes off to work in a law firm. Mary decides that one of her wealthy and good-looking teachers will be her ticket back to Beverley Hills. Nora discovers that in her job as a legal intern, Edward (D’Agosto), her supervisor, is the brother of the grasping sister-in-law. Nora and Edward fall in love but Nora wishes to finish her education and progress her career rather than concentrate on matters of the heart. While they live in the barrio, they discover the true meaning of love, family and priorities in life. Needless to say a happy end is in store for all concerned.

This was a lightweight romantic comedy with no pretensions whatsoever, treading solid familiar ground, which perhaps made me more kindly disposed to it. Jane Austen doesn’t always translate well to modern times, but the Latino twist on this adaptation worked. The concept of marriage and its importance may have been paramount to Jane Austen and her contemporaries, but no as much today. However, the Latino expectations regarding marriage and family suit the Austen premise well and the screenplay has been well-adapted to a contemporary Mexican/American reality.

The acting is good enough for the subject matter – this is no Shakespeare play. The director handles the material well and manages most of the time to control the actors tendency to overact. Some of the best acting comes from the supporting roles, Barrazza doing a splendid job as Aunt Aurelia, even though hers is a minor role. The others in the Barrio also provide some enjoyable moments. There is a tendency to typecast in the movie and the grasping sister-in-law is almost pantomime material. Wilmer Valderrama as Bruno, the love interest in the Barrio does a good enough job as the strong silent type.

The soundtrack was very well suited to the action, with well-accented contrasts between Beverley Hills pop and traditional Mexican sounds in the Barrio (music by Heitor Pereira). The soundtrack contains one of the best renditions of “Cielito Lindo” I have ever heard – it’s quite magical and it's a pity I couldn't track who the female singer was.

This is a very light and frothy romantic comedy and although very L.A. in terms of cultural references, we as Australians enjoyed it and understood the point of all references. It’s one of the advantages of living in a multicultural city like Melbourne. The film was savaged by the critics, but was much better received by the viewing public. If you set your expectation a notch or two down you will certainly enjoy the film for what it is – as I said, it’s not self-important, nor pretentious (which is always a good thing).

1 comment:

  1. Aha! I have just discovered the singer who is ont he soundtrack and sings "Cielito Lindo": It is Colombian singer/songwriter Marta Gomez from her album "Entre cada palabra" released in 2006.