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Princesas (Unrated)

Release Date: August 23rd, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC First Take.
The Cast: Candela Peña, Micaela Neváerz, Mariana Cordero, Llum Barrera, Violeta Pérez, Monica Van Campen, Flora Àlvarez, María Ballesteros, Alejandra Lorente, Luis Callejo. Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa.
In Spanish with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: Caye (Peña) questions her lifestyle as a prostitute in Spain when she befriends Zulema (Neváerz), a new prostitute from the Dominican Republic. ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Candela Peña gives a radiant performance as Caye, a Spanish woman who earns her living as a prostitute unbeknownst to her family. Her life changes once she cares for Zulema, a new prostitute who left her 5-year-old son back in the Dominican Republic. The two gradually develop a friendship while turning tricks in between. The plot goes into Pretty Woman territory when Caye meets Manuel, a computer technician played with charm by Luis Callejo. He has dreams of becoming as wealthy as Bill Gates. Unlike most men, he treats her with respect and actually listens to her. Their relationship, surprisingly, doesn’t change much when he subtly acknowledges that she is a prostitute. In a somewhat comical scene, she leaves him in the middle of dinner to go to the bathroom where she quickly turns another trick before returning to her seat. Writer/director León de Aranoa brings the characters to life and includes interesting subplots to keep you engaged. Caye visits her siblings and mother, who can’t seem to get over her husband’s death. Zulema finds a way to get even with a man who abused her without directly killing him. The smart script minimizes melodrama through subtly and many true-to-life moments. It would have been nice if the third act didn’t almost have as many different endings as the third installment of Lord of the Rings did. On a positive note, the soundtrack repeats a well-fitting song titled “Si La Vida Te Da” which is just as lively and colorful as the characters in this highly entertaining film.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Other than depicting prostitutes as complex human beings with feelings, hopes and dreams, Princesas doesn’t go deep enough to be particularly insightful or profound.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A messy third act with too many endings.


IN A NUTSHELL: Lively and thoroughly entertaining with a terrific soundtrack. Candela Peña gives a radiant performance.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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