FROM PRADA TO NADA Director: Angel Gracia Stars: Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Wilmer Valderrama Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Hear that funny swooshing noise? That's the sound of Jane Austen spinning in her grave over From Prada To Nada, a contemporary comedy of manners based on Sense And Sensibility. Loosely based, we might add.
The Dashwood sisters of the novel have become the Dominguez girls, siblings who could not be less alike. Their differences are emphasized by the sort of casting that makes sisters out of Alexa Vega (as Mary) and Camilla Belle (as Nora). Both actresses seem to be an interesting shade of pale orange here, as if a fake tan might help convince you of their characters' Mexican heritage.
When their father drops dead (did we mention this was a comedy?) the Beverly Hills beauties see their fortunes quickly decline. Turns out dad was about to declare bankruptcy. Worse yet, their beloved house has been left to a half-brother they barely know. He and his icy wife move in, and the sisters move out. These girls are broke.
The studious Nora is a law student, and she's not that worried about having to leave Beverly Hills. Mary, however, is devastated. The sisters move to their aunt's (Adriana Barraza) house in east Los Angeles, where Nora embraces her Mexican roots and Mary recoils at the sight of anything and anyone Latino. Much is made of the fact that neither sister speaks Spanish.
After the expected cultural clashes (scary local gang members living nearby, illegal workers in the house, a wreck-of-a-car replaces BMW, etc. -- hahahahaha!!!) the sisters move on to the important task of falling in love. Their social-climbing sister-in-law has a lawyer brother who falls for Nora, while Mary takes up with a handsome man who appears to have money. She pretends to live in a big house in Beverly Hills and tries to impress him, hoping a relationship with him will return her to the wealth and privilege she craves. He proves to be a cad. Quelle horrible surprise.
There is a taciturn local tough (Wilmer Valderrama) in the 'hood who spars with Mary and obviously fancies her, but she won't give him the time of day. He's poor! He's Mexican! We'll let you guess how that works out.
From Prada To Nada is a scattered mess. The script attempts to follow the basic outline of Sense And Sensibility even as it folds in contemporary humour and cultural issues; the end result is almost unwatchable. Too long, badly written and full of outdated (and dangerous) notions about true love, this one is a career insult to all the talented actors involved.
If you're determined to take in a film version of Austen, rent the 1995 Ang Lee-directed Sense And Sensibility with Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson; Thompson also wrote the screenplay. Trust us.