You may be surprised to learn that the hot, young filmmakers bursting out of Sundance with Quinceaera, a vivid evocation of Los Angeles’ gentrifying Echo Park (once deeply Mexican), are neither all that hot nor that young—nor even that Mexican. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are, not to put too fine a point on it, the gentrifiers. But they’ve come a long way since their limp gay 2001 comedy, The Fluffer, and clearly have a loving eye for the ’hood they’ve made their home.
Yet the observational distance they occasionally fall prey to—smartly acknowledged by the presence of a gay white couple refurbishing a house—places their drama in the company of Larry Clark’s recent Wassup Rockers or Joshua Marston’s Maria Full of Grace. Not as salaciously exploitative as the former nor as fiercely enraged as the latter, Quinceaera is primarily an “edgy” family drama in the hand-wringing Indiewood tradition. Shy Magdalena (Rios) edges toward her 15th birthday (and its attendant party, much like a confirmation) with the knowledge that she is pregnant. Driven from home, she stays with an accepting great-grand-uncle (the excellent Gonzlez, a Peckinpah vet) and her closeted cousin, Carlos (Garcia), who’s negotiating a banishment of his own. The trio makes for an appealing protective unit, with the cousins coming to a particularly sweet understanding; when Magdalena’s clothes begin to strain, Carlos lends her his oversize gang plaids. Even when the directors make missteps, they’re not ones of racial insensitivity but, rather, dramatic timidity. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf