Over the years, Jane Austen’s tales have been adapted and moulded into all sorts of forms by the world of film and TV, but one we’ve haven’t had until now is Sense & Sensibility brought into the 21st Century and given a Latina spin! And let’s just ignore they called it From Prada To Nada, which is a spectacularly awful title.
Alexa Vega and Camilla Belle play sisters Mary and Nora Dominguez, who’ve grown up rich and pampered in the best bits of LA. However when their father kicks the bucket, they discover he was essentially bankrupt, which necessitates a move to the much poorer environs of their aunt’s house in East LA. The pampered princesses must learn a few lessons about living without endless supplies of cash, as well as that love isn’t just about finding a rich match, while reconnecting with their Latino roots.
It’s safe to say that this will not go down in history as one of the great takes on Austen’s tales. In fact it won’t go down in history at all, as I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been completely forgotten in five years. However it’s lightweight fluff that for the most part trips along in amiable if dumb fashion, only really coming a cropper towards the end. In the last third it knows what plot points it has to hit, but seems incapable of getting from one clichéd story beat to the next in ways that don’t seem arbitrary and often completely out of character.
Alexa Vega has fun with her role as the vain and superficial Mary, who needs to learn that the homeboy with a heart of gold (Wilmer Valderramma, who’s gotten ridiculously hunky since his That 70s Show days) who lives next door may be a better match that the rich, be-quiffed man she’s after. Nora is potentially the more interesting sister though, but Camilla Bella proves as she did in 10,000BC and Push that she isn’t a very good actress. She’s just comes across as blank, so it’s never 100% convincing there’s a brain behind the arch eyebrows and worryingly jaundiced complexion (I don’t know if it’s bad colour balancing or a weird fake tan, but Belle really does look bizarrely yellow in the movie), which is particularly problematic as Nora’s supposed to be a trainee lawyer.
The film never quite finds the right tone between wanting to be breezy fun and to make real points about Latino life. It might have worked better if it had fully picked one over the other, as it ends up slightly short-changing both. It’s a shame as for much of the time From Prada To Nada is actually fun, utterly lightweight fluff, but in reaching for and failing to make a point, along with some incredibly sloppy plot turns, it ends up a lot less entertaining than it could have been.
Overall Verdict: Austen probably isn’t spinning in her grave, but she probably is thinking she could have turned her tale into a much better East LA tale than From Prada To Nada does.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac