Quinceanera” refers to the ceremony that officially ushers a 15 year girl into womanhood. This film uses the Echo Park LA locale and the ceremony itself as a starting place to explore a variety of themes surrounding the repercussions of the gentrification of Mexican-American communities. Initially, the film feels a bit like a lo-budget after school special, more akin to Degrassi Jr. High than the Sundance Jury Prize.
But as the primary characters, Magdalena a pregnant teen and her gay cousin Carlos, begin to confront the realities of the world around them, while taking refuge with a wise and warm great uncle, the film begins to work its way under your skin. Magdalena is the popular daughter of a full time security gaurd and part time storefront minister, who seems to have everything thing she could want (friends, a boyfriend, supportive family) but with a single utterance she manages to watch it all disappear. Her cousin Carlos, a thoughtful but thug-like guy falls for the yuppie gay couple who rent his uncle the shack and becomes oddly motivated to change his life.
There is nothing visually or stylistically unique about this tiny little jewel, but somehow it manages to preach without preaching, to tug heartstrings without tugging, and ultimately continue to root for little movies, made on a shoestrings to succeed. Also take the time to watch the making of this movie special feature on the DVD, it will make you like it even more than I you thought you did.