Review: Cristela 1x12, "Hypertension" (@cristela9)
|Oh, please. You totally wish you were me.|
Ladies and gentlemen of the Bar, meet Cristela Alonzo, comedienne, goddess, and star of ABC's Cristela, which airs Friday nights.
The character Cristela is a sixth-year law student working her ass off in an unpaid internship for a filthy rich law firm. Her schooling has had multiple interruptions due to finances and family issues, but she's refused to give up. She lives with her sister Daniela, her good-looking brother-in-law Felix, their two kids, and her mother all under one roof. The cramped setting of Cristela's home life is a running gag on the show (Cristela and Felix don't really get along).
The comedy is inspired by the comedienne's life and portrayed in a half-hour sitcom format shot in multi-camera with a laugh track.
|Maria Canals-Barrera as "Daniela"|
Portrayed by the dazzling Maria Canals-Barrera, Daniela is a obviously a slimmer beauty than her sister. Daniela is a more traditional Latina than Cristela; she's a wife and mother, and though she makes more money than her husband, she and Cristela lie to him about how much because Felix cannot handle it.
Anyways, "Hypertension" begins with Daniela using her kids to trick Cristela into getting more exercise. When Cristela finds out the ruse and confronts her sister, Daniela says she just concerned for Cristela because high blood pressure runs in their family and she doesn't want to lose her. I should point out that the comedy of this scene is that Daniela is in bed with a flabbergasted Felix when Cristela barges into their room. The sisters hug and reconcile over his naked (albeit covered) body while Felix's discomfort is visibly - and adorably - evident.
After tricking Cristela into exercising, Daniela then tricks Cristela into showing up to get her blood pressure checked. And here it's revealed that Cristela's blood pressure is fine, while Daniela's blood pressure has to be monitored.
When the sisters get home, a deeply bemused Cristela lets Felix and their mother know right away that Daniela has high blood pressure. Their mother is confused because Daniela is "so beautiful" and heads out. Cristela rolls her eyes and is ready to skip off into the sunset when Daniela - completely ignoring her own health problems - insists that Cristela needs to make some changes because she doesn't want her sister to end up alone. While both Cristela and audience are wondering how NOT having high blood pressure = ending up alone, Daniela asks Cristela how she expects to get a man looking the way she looks.
Before we can go "Aha!" at Daniela's health-trolling, we see that Felix is now confused. He asks what's wrong with the way Cristela's looks. Cristela thinks he's messing with her again (they like to bicker), but Felix flat-out states there's nothing wrong with the way Cristela looks, and heads for the kitchen (fans were upset this conversation wasn't expanded further). Completely ignoring her husband's comments as well, Daniela still pushes that Cristela won't get to have a husband and kids (i.e., what she has) if she doesn't lose weight.
Need I remind you, this...is Cristela:
Um...I'm pretty sure she's got more than her fair share of folks checking for her, hear me?
Cristela then has to break it down for her sister: 1) she actually likes the way she looks, and 2) she doesn't want what Daniela has. Daniela, of course, doesn't believe her, driving Cristela to reveal that unlike her sister, she wants to have a real career (Daniela manages a call center). Daniela is hurt and Cristela has to re-explain: she doesn't look down on her sister; she simply doesn't want to be her sister. Cristela wants something different. Daniela still doesn't believe her.
So later, when Daniela's talking to her husband Felix, he has to break it down for her: sometimes, when people tell you what they want...that's really what they want. Daniela can't believe it because to her, what Cristela wants is "crazy."
This episode stuck out to me for obvious reasons but I'm applauding it because way too many women have had this conversation and I do mean this exact conversation verbatim. There was no paraphrasing, no convoluted twists and turns, no tears, no anything. Shit...it reminded me of every time I've had to have a this conversation with people, even when they had health problems which I don't and never have (I'm still a size 14). I was so fiercely proud and awestruck when Cristela stood her ground, flashed her big woman swag, and destroyed her sister's entire world with just a few simple words: I like the way I look.
I was so excited to see this in all its raw, unflinching, unapologetic accuracy because I'll never forgive the premise for Drop Dead Diva. As you recall, Lifetime unveiled a show in which a stick-figure blonde model Deb dies, goes to a cosmic waiting room, pushes a button, and is "reincarnated" in the body of size-16 Jane (Brooke Elliott). Even after years of dating and wearing fabulous outfits (and even refusing to lose weight), "Deb" still reveals she would never choose Jane's body. Need I remind you, this is the great Brooke Elliott who portrayed Jane:
Listen...big women don't need weird plotlines to "explain" why a full-bodied character looks the way she looks. If you're going to have a show about thick chicks and fully-fledged fat chicks, then you need to just show them living their lives and going about their business. In just a few sentences, Cristela accomplished perfectly what Drop Dead Diva couldn't do in six seasons (it was literally years before they were even willing to show Jane in an actual onscreen kiss with a guy who was conventionally handsome).
So while the netizens wonder if Cristela will come back for another season, you already know whom I'm rooting for.