In the dusty small-town Texas of Amy Wendel's All She Can – the centerpiece movie of the weeklong Latino-themed Maya Indie Film series – the options are predictably bleak for high school grads: Join the army, work on an oil rig or enroll at a local community college. And for Luz Garcia (Corina Calderon), teenage weightlifting champion, there's the off chance of a scholarship to the University of Texas, provided she pumps the most iron at the state competition. There's no question that Wendel's movie treads familiar sports-as-the-way-out territory. But in its attention to the details of the lifters' routines (hanging upside down or starving oneself to make weight) and its evocation of both the desolate beauty of the scrubby Texas countryside and the sense of quiet desperation it engenders, the film proves that closely sketched specificity can trump pedestrian plotting. At least, that is, until steroids rears its ugly and inevitable head and the film veers into morality play and, finally, inspirational uplift. What's dispiriting about that turn is that it entails a movement away from the exact observations of the movie's first half, forcing Luz into moments of increasingly improbable self-assertion, all in an effort to show, after an initial resignation, her unshakable, awe inspiring determination. (Sunset 5)
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