Guys: If the woman in your life wants to see "How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer" because she heard it's a sweet, funny and realistic view of sexuality from a woman's point of view, go along quietly. You'll survive this.
Writer-director-producer Georgina Garcia Riedel, a first-generation Mexican American, has re-created her small, dusty Arizona hometown to tell a story of awakening that spreads like a sensual virus between a lonely middle-aged divorcee (Elizabeth Pena), her 17-year-old daughter (America Ferrera) and her own 70-year-old mother (Lucy Gallardo).
All of this is sparked by Grandma's decision to buy a beaten-up truck and learn how to drive.
With a sympathetic eye, Riedel lets three emerging stories leisurely intersect: Blanca, the daughter, who willingly loses her virginity to a mysterious stranger; Lolita, her mother, embittered by a working-class life's disappointments and lack of promise; and grandmother Dona Genoveva, who develops strange feelings of affection for the elderly gardener who volunteers to teach her. (Guys: Don't worry. What happens between them is beautifully handled. You won't have flashbacks about the time you walked in on your parents.) So earnest is Dona Genoveva's oft-frustrated desire to drive that her hard-won success, in which she travels about as far as the Wright brothers' first flight, carries as much jubilance.
Riedel peppers her narration with half a dozen appearances by a Spanish-speaking, subtitled Greek chorus of middle-aged men discussing the correlation between cars and women -- promises, disappointments, triumphs. It's a perfect fit -- another victory for a first-time, full-length feature filmmaker with a curious, inventive eye and an unsparing point of view.
"How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer." MPAA rating: R for sexual content and some language. Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes. In general release.