Girl in Progress (2012): Family Melodrama Starring Eva Mendes, Written by Dominican-Born Hiram Martinez

The best things about this amateurish family melodrama are the title, “Girl in Progress,” and the name of the protagonist, Ansiedad, which is the Spanish word for anxiety.

Other than that, what’s shown on screen, while pretending to be an inside portrait of an Hispanic girl’s coming of age, is so sentimental and inauthentic that it gives a bad name to a popular genre that’s been endlessly revisited by American directors.

Rough on the edges, but extremely soft at the center, this tale is meant to cash in on the rising popularity of Eva Mendes, while serving as targeted programming for Mother’s day.

The script by the Dominican-born, New York raised Hiram Martinez, lacks any particularly urgent or interesting insights about the Hispanic subculture. The filmmakers’ claim that that they were inspired by edgy and offbeat movies like “Thirteen” or “Rushmore” renders “Girl in Progress” merely pretentious or a wannabe.

Mendes plays Grace, a single mom who’s too busy juggling work, bills, and other chores to give her daughter Ansiedad (Ramirez) the attention she desperately needs—and deserves.

The power of teachers and literature: When Ansiedad’s English teacher, Ms. Armstrong (Patricia Arquette), introduces her students to classic coming-of-age tales, Ansiedad is inspired to skip adolescence and jump-start her life without her mom’s assistance.

The film raises the question of whether or not an individual can skip a crucial phase in life without the cultural rituals, pains and joys associated with it (what anthropologists call rites of passage).

But after establishing the narrative premise and dilemma, “Girl in Progress” has nothing much to say about motherhood or adolescence, and so the writers cut between the various activities of mother and daughter. Thus, while Grace becomes preoccupied with the affections of a co-worker (Eugenio Derbez), Ansiedad enlists the help of her loyal friend Tavita (Raini Rodriguez) to plot her shortcut to “adulthood”.

We sit (and look at our watches) and wait for the predictable ending to occur with all the life lessons that each woman has to learn about herself and the other one.