'Ana Maria in Novela Land': Film Review
Edy Ganem of "Devious Maids" plays the dual roles of a twentysomething slacker and the glamorous star of her favorite telenovela in this identity switching-themed comedy
A familiar switching identities plot is given a Latino spin in Ana Maria in Novela Land, starring Edy Ganem (Devious Maids) in the dual roles of a telenovela-obsessed, twentysomething slacker and the glamorous star of her favorite show. While this effort directed and co-scripted by Georgina Garcia Riedel lacks true comic inspiration, it provides some genial laughs along the way. Although most likely to attract its target audience, it may achieve some crossover success thanks to the popularity of such recent and current television shows as Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin.
Ana Maria has neglected both her professional and personal lives to concentrate on watching and live tweeting about the soapy Pasion sin Limites, much to the consternation of her worried parents, especially her mother (the late Elizabeth Pena, to whom the film is dedicated, in her final screen role).
One night while watching the show at home Ana Maria is transported, thanks to an errant lighting strike—as usual, logic is in short supply in these scenarios—to the show's glamorous environs and becomes the sexy spitfire Ariana. Believing herself to be dreaming, she happily embraces her new surroundings and is eagerly receptive to the romantic advances of the hunky Armando (Michael Steger), the son of Ariana's wealthy, older fiancé Eduardo (Juan Pablo Gamboa).
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Ariana, meanwhile, is aghast to discover that she's now in a drab suburban home, surrounded by people who she presumes to be her kidnappers.
Ganem, with the aid of expert hair and make-up designs, delivers a virtuoso comic turn in her two roles, humorously conveying both characters' culture shock as each tries to adjust to her new surroundings. Ana Maria, for instance, is nonplussed to discover that the bathroom in her television setting doesn't contain a toilet, while Ariana marvels at the bowl of flowing water she's apparently seeing for the first time.
Ariana is also startled to discover that she now has a sister, Ana Gloria (Mercedes Mason), who's preparing for her upcoming wedding. Ariana sincerely informs her that she has no intention of sleeping with her new husband.
Further plot complications involve the characters in the telenovela turning into zombies—don't ask—and the evil machinations of the family's scheming lawyer (Luis Guzman).
Despite its relatively brief running time, the film runs out of comic steam long the convoluted proceedings reach their conclusion, with the spoofery having the feel of an overextended variety show skit. But it's mostly enjoyable nonetheless, thanks largely to the charms of its young star who is clearly destined for bigger things.
Production: Synthetic Cinema International, Steakhaus Productions
Cast: Edy Ganem, Michael Steger, Luis Guzman, Elizabeth Pena, Tamara Taylor, Mercedes Mason, Nestor Serrano, Juan Pablo Gamboa
Director: Georgina Garcia Riedel
Screenwriters: Georgina Garcia Riedel, Jose Nestor Marquez
Producers: Andrew Gernhard, Shane O'Brien, Zach O'Brien
Executive producers: Jose Nestor Marquez, Valerie Stadler
Director of photography: Tobias Datum
Production designer: Laurel Frank
Editor: Phillip J. Bartel
Costume designer: Lauren Oppelt
Composer: Mandy Hoffman
Casting: Valerie McCaffrey
No rating, 93 min.