With a story that will be familiar to fans of both reality television and soap operas around the world, the Mexican dramedy Casi Divas (Road to Fame) attempts to break into the international market. The story centers around four young women who desperately want to play the title character in the big-screen adaptation of the long-running telenovela "Maria Enamorada." Casi Divas features all the melodrama of a soap, but there are plenty of humorous touches to lighten the story.
Eva Gallardo (Patricia Llaca, Beat) is the reigning queen of "Maria Enamorada," but her producer -- and on-again, off-again lover -- Alejandro Mateos (Julio Bracho, 7 Days) thinks she is too old to transition the character to film. The temperamental diva doesn't take her rejection easily, and she intends to make Alejandro pay for his sins. Meanwhile, a nationwide search for a new Maria Enamorada is underway. Casi Divas focuses on four women in the competition: Francisca (Maya Zapata), Yesenia (Daniela Schmidt), Ximena (Ana Layevska), and Catalina (Diana Garcia). Native American beauty Francisca travels from her village in Oaxaca to Mexico City with dreams of stardom in her head, but she hasn't forgotten her roots -- or the quiet young man she left behind. Diva-in-training Yesenia spends her days as a hairstylist and her nights packed into a home with her large family in one of Mexico City's poorer neighborhoods. Ximena is the daughter of a powerful man in Guadalajara, but money isn't enough for her -- she wants fame, accolades, and an Oscar. Catalina struggles to escape Ciudad Juarez, a border town known for its unsolved cases of disappearing young women.
Each of the competitors has her reasons for joining the pageant-like contest, but they all fight fiercely for the coveted role. Nothing seems out of bounds for these women, whether it's sleeping with the powerful Alejandro or using money to get to the top. As the unknowns plot their triumph, the original Maria, Eva Gallardo, resorts to blackmail, deceit, and seduction in her own attempts to win back her signature role.
Casi Divas jumps between genres, introducing each girl's story in a documentary-esque format, then slipping into the style of Mexican melodramas for the more emotional or shocking moments in the script. The competition's finale and the announcement of the winner intentionally drags like a real-life reality show. One almost expects the film to go to commercial when the winner's name sits on the host's lips.
While the film boasts international appeal and a fine score from Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, this is truly a Mexican story. Casi Divas will be best understood by those familiar with the telenovela format (and not just viewers of ABC's Ugly Betty), but it also benefits viewers to understand Mexican culture and geographic regions. However, even for the uninitiated, this film is a feather-light diversion that proves fun while it lasts. leave a comment --Kimber Myers