Casi Divas – Movie Review

A funny television satire and heartening viewing experience that has personal lessons in courage as well as much needed commentary on the mess of US/Mexican border relations

Writer/director Issa López won the Jury Award for Best Screenplay at last year’s Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival for this swinging soap opera about an aging television star and four young hopefuls who want to take her place. 

Patricia Llaca plays the beautiful daytime TV legend Eva who climbed to the top of the ladder along with her producer the scheming and back-stabbing Alejandro (Julio Bracho).  The aging Eva is fighting to stay on top in an industry where twenty-four is over the hill.  Her on-again off-again lover and producer Alejandro has decided enough is enough and organizes a talent extravaganza to replace the irreplaceable Eva.  The fight is on and Eva is about to show her ex that he is not the only one who can play rough.

Thousands of young hopefuls who show up to audition are lined up like troops before D-Day outside the studio.  More than half of them are summarily rejected by Alejandro with the ruthlessness of a machine gunner holding off the assaulting hordes.  But the fun has only begun for the several dozen who remain.  They will spend the next several months of glamour survivor game shows competing against each other in the hope of becoming the next superstar of the soaps.

Luckily for us there is more to the show than just that.  In addition to competing with each other the contestants bond with each other.  In the course of their bonding we are told their stories for each has a distinctive reason for being in the competition.  Some are searching for an escape, some want to make a statement and some feel like they have nowhere else to go and nothing else to live for.  In the end they all get what they need if not what they want.

The women come from completely different walks of life, representing the diversity of interests in the burgeoning nation of Mexico.  One is a woman of native blood who doesn’t stand a chance until she is helped in transforming herself by the beautiful and self-confident Yesenia.  As a native Mexican most doors are closed to her and her chance to perform is her only ticket out of a life scraping a living from the desert.  Another leaves a village on the border of the US where young women disappear never to be found again.  These women are imprisoned by the illegal sex industry serving a relatively wealthy US clientele.  Many of the women are killed or kill themselves after being addicted to various substances or forced to commit deviant sex acts.

The women come from all walks of live including a rich household with the connections to throw the entire contest any way they desire.  But amongst all the women, the brash Yesinia holds the most shocking secret of them all.  Luckily for the audience it is also the funniest secret.

This film is touching and good hearted and at the same time very funny.  It succeeds where others fail in thoroughly skewering the television industry for its unfaltering venality and senseless cruelty.  In spite of the odds against them these women survive and find hidden strengths that emerge only in the times of direst necessity and only flourish under the light of the deepest friendships.  Kudos for adding another spotlight onto the terrible crime of sexual slavery that survives under the miasma of failed US/Mexican border policy.

Directed by: Issa López
Written by: Issa López, Ignacio Darnaude (original idea)

Starring: Patricia Llaca, Julio Bracho, Maya Zapata, Ana Layevska, Daniela Schmidt and Diana Garcia

Release: August 21, 2009
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for mature sexual content, language and thematic material
Runtime: 107 minutes
Country: Mexico
Language: Spanish
Color: Color