Even though there is some overlap between movies, PRINCESAS is not a
sequel to the 2001 international co-production
PRINCESA. The latter was inspired
by a true story of a transvestite Brazilian prostitute saving up for a sex change.
In contrast,
PRINCESAS is about two Spanish female prostitutes, one of whom,
Caye (
is saving up for breast augmentation surgery while another is sending whatever
money she can back to her mother and son in the Dominican Republic.








There's a joke about one of the easiest ways to pick up an Academy Award
is for an actress to play a prostitute. So it should come as no surprise that this
caveat may apply to other countries as well. Both Candela Peña and newcomer
Micaela Nevárez earned the Goya award (the Spanish equivalent for the Oscar)
for their respective roles as ladies of the evening in
PRINCESAS. The film, written
and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa (
MONDAYS IN THE SUN), centers on the
growing friendship between Caye (Peña) and immigrant Zulema (Nevárez) as
they navigate the streets of Madrid.

Just as MONDAYS IN THE SUN was about male bonding,
Princesas
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

Even though there is some overlap between movies, PRINCESAS is not a
sequel to the 2001 international co-production
PRINCESA. The latter was inspired
by a true story of a transvestite Brazilian prostitute saving up for a sex change.
In contrast,
PRINCESAS is about two Spanish female prostitutes, one of whom,
Caye (Candela Peña, recalled as Marisa Paredes' lover in Pedro Almodóvar's
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER) is saving up for breast augmentation surgery while
Zulema (newcomer Micaela Nevárez is sending whatever money she can back to
her mother and son in the Dominican Republic.

Caye is an intriguing character. She hails from a middle-class background
(we see her having weekly meals with her mother and other relatives) but she's
so insecure she has had to create an alter ego -- Lima -- to work as a prostitute.
Of course, her family doesn't know what she does for a living, despite the
seemingly incessant ringing of her cell phone and her furtive trips to the kitchen
to arrange business meetings. She spends her days waiting for calls in a beauty
salon across from a local park that is now overrun with immigrant women from
Africa and the Caribbean who seemingly are undercutting the Spanish hookers.
There's a great deal of resentment and when one of these girls - Zulema - steals
a client from Caye, she's incensed.

Caye becomes even more upset when she finds out that Zulema is
living in the same apartment building. The pair become unlikely friends when
Caye finds a badly beaten Zulema thanks to a sadistic guy who has promised
residency papers. The pair share their dreams and develop a genuine friendship,
much to the consternation of the women at the salon. Caye also finds the
possibility for a real relationship when she meets Manuel (Luis Cajello) a
computer programmer who doesn't believe her when she confesses what she
does for a living.

 Fernando León de Aranoa earned attention for
MONDAYS IN THE SUN,
a drama that addressed unemployment, class issues and male bonding. In
some ways, this is the distaff version. León de Aranoa writes full-bodied
characters and as a director allows his actors to fully inhabit them, even
down to the supporting players. Peña and Nevárez share a nice chemistry
and both actresses won the Goya (the Spanish equivalent of the Academy
Award) for their work in this film. While there are some stretches of the
movie that are a bit talky, the end result is engaging and one finds oneself
ultimately rooting for these princesses to achieve their desired goals.


PRINCESAS culminates in a series of scenes that are at once moving
and ultimately sad. One leaves the theater wondering about what happpened
to these two women. That in and of itself is a rare thing for a movie to
accomplish these days and for that the audience should be very grateful.


                   Rating:                B +
                   Running time:      114 mins.
                   Viewed at the IFC Center