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Mi Vida Loca

In the hands of the usual hacks, this tale of Hispanic girl gangs in Los Angeles could have been Babes in the Barrio. None of that trash for writer-director Allison Anders, whose acclaimed autobiographical 1992 film Gas, Food, Lodging (about a truck-stop waitress raising two daughters alone) scrupulously removed women from the realm of macho fantasy.

Mi Vida Loca (meaning my crazy life) deals with the ways these women forge friendships and identities outside of the men who often make them mothers and widows before they hit 16. Mousie (Seidy Lopez) and Sad Girl (Angel Aviles) are such tight pals they claim to have their periods on the same day. But when they both fall for Ernesto (Jacob Vargas) and get pregnant by him, a feud begins.

But against a backdrop of sex, drugs, violence and music (supervised by Jellybean Benitez) that catches the rhythm of the streets, the film also strives to illuminate internal conflicts. But Anders’ ambition to get it all in trips her up, as does her reliance on mostly untrained actors. There’s too little time to develop so many characters. But if the film fails to fully resonate, it is always vibrantly alive. In finding the heart of matters Hollywood consigns to the fringe, Anders remains a rare and vital talent.

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