Friday, April 1, 2011

Maria Full of Grace (2004): ...And a Portion of Disgrace

Maria Full of Grace
Some people do not like Forrest Gump because they think to portray an unintelligent man succeeding in the USA is just not right or politically correct. One might wonder then, why they haven't anathematized the film Maria Full of Grace. Because although I love Forrest Gump, I cannot get rid of the feeling that Maria Full of Grace portrays drug life and particularly being a drug mule as an almost innocent game. Whether the movie could push some young people into making the dangerous step towards drug affairs is beyond my ability to know but it definitely does very little to present the real side of the drug business. And I do not think that the usual "it's just a movie" excuse is suitable for a film of such kind.

Maria Full of Grace (an interesting and suitable title with multiple meanings) is about Maria, a pregnant seventeen-year-old Colombian girl, who loses her everyday job but is forced by her relatives to work and help them with money. Without having a good perspective for a new job, she accepts an "accidental" offer to become a drug mule and transport cocaine between Colombia and the United States in her belly. Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned and even Maria's first trip turns into a "nightmare". She discovers that her friend Blanca has also joined the bunch of drug mules, New York customs inspectors immediately become suspicious of her and a drug mule colleague gets ill on the plane and subsequently dies.

While the movie is well executed and the acting is rather good with Catalina Sandino Moreno getting an Academy Award nomination for her role of Maria, the unrealistic depiction of drug business doings just spoils the otherwise fine premise. It's Ok that we see a naive teenager becoming a drug mule and that an even less intelligent friend of Maria's follows her. But the events that later happen are just a row of lucky occurrences in order to achieve a happy ending and they have nothing to do with the reality.

To avoid writing just twaddle and with the risk of producing some spoilers (skip this and the next paragraph if you prefer), here are a few examples in support of the aforementioned statements. While Maria instantly becomes a suspect upon her arrival at New York's airport and customs inspectors interrogate her and they believe she is carrying drugs in her stomach, all of a sudden they decide to discharge her without making any tests. Being pregnant is not a fair reason for that. And it's even stranger that nobody follows her to see where she's going and eventually to capture some of the drug dealers. It's inexplicable how the customs inspectors suddenly change their minds after being firmly convinced Maria is a drug mule.

Furthermore, Maria and Blanca know that if something goes wrong their families will pay for it but still they run away with the dope. That's still Ok but luckily again, the drug dealers in Colombia are not informed about the girl's escape so nothing happens to their families. Finally, after some time, the girls decide to call back and return the dope. As you already should have expected, Maria and Blanca survive again. They even receive their money and dare to ask for more. And everything ends happily... It could be said the movie has a surprising ending but it's not a virtue in this case. Since the film is not a parody one would anticipate that after doing so many stupid things the girls would be punished either by the drug dealers or at least by the police. But nothing like this happens.

There are many movies (even ones dealing with history) that present actual (historical) facts untruly. Yet, their life impact is not so critical. Maria Full of Grace does not portray actual events so everything seen in the movie is possible although not quite probable. The big problem is the film's lack of realism could send a very wrong message to the teenagers with its mild treatment of dangerous subjects like drug dealings and law violation. Sometimes, films about drugs, addiction or participation in a drug addiction treatment program get it right as far as portrayal is concerned. It's not the case with this movie though.

As I've mentioned above Maria Full of Grace is not a poorly produced movie and it is possible to enjoy it. But have in mind that the narco-business is presented pretty much like a usual job. In real life and in regard to the film's events, those 2 girls would have ended either in prison (their better option) or shot dead. After all, they've shot footballers in Colombia for nothing more than scoring an own goal. So, if there are youngsters around you, be aware that the dark side of the drug world is just softly hinted in Maria Full of Grace.

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