|Spanglish (DVD, 2006, Canadian)|
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At it’s heart, Spanglish is about two women who might have the best intentions, but due to cultural differences, end up at odds over how to raise their children. Deborah Clasky (Tea Leoni) is your stereotypical SoCal mom – obsessed with fitness, money, and stature but that fails to mask what a basket case she is when it comes to her family, whom she is too selfish to bother to understand. Flor Moreno (the beautiful newcomer Paz Vega) is a struggling single mom that speaks no English but is hired on a whim by Deborah to be her family’s new housekeeper.
From here, some tame and typical cultural comedy ensues as the Clasky’s get to know Flor and vise versa. Deborah’s lush, ex-Jazz singer mother (the underused Cloris Leachman) is nice but clashes with her daughter on her life. The kids are spearheaded by the pudgy Bernice (Sarah Steele) who can’t seem to meet her mother’s expectations. And there’s John (Adam Sandler), the celebrated chef who can’t seem to connect with his wife. The plot starts to move as Flor, whether she tries to or not, becomes all the things to the family that Deborah is not. Things get compounded, however, when Flor’s bi-lingual daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) lives with the family at their beach house over the summer. Cristina and Deborah connect due to Cristina’s becoming enamored with the wealth and opportunity that Flor can’t provide.
While on paper, the plot seems intriguing – the film seems to hit all the wrong notes. Deborah’s character becomes unbearably ignorant and annoying that she weighs the film down. On the flip side, Sandler’s John is so annoyingly perfect as a parent and a person that his one character flaw of being non-confrontational made me want to root against him. Sandler’s performance is the only one that isn’t up to par as he seems a bit overwhelmed by the straight drama aspects (although his dramatic performance in Punch Drunk Love is my favorite performance by him, so I know he can be dramatic when he wants to be). Everyone else seems to do a good job with what they are given.
One of the more ironic things about the DVD is that it doesn’t offer subtitles or an audio track in Spanish. That’s giggle inducing material right there. You can get both English and French though.
On the deleted scenes front, you get twelve of them. None would have added to the film in my opinion and Mr. Brooks tells you why in his optional commentary for each.
If you have a DVD/ROM, then you can read the screenplay. I don’t, so I can’t tell you how good or bad it was. For film buffs, any time you get a copy of a screenplay, it’s a good thing and I like that this is becoming a more available option on DVD’s. Bonus points for that.
There is a commentary track with both Brooks and other crew members. That’s pretty standard. However, you also get optional commentary on some casting sections which I found more interesting.
On the “fill the DVD with fodder” front, we have a featurette entitled, "How to Make the World's Greatest Sandwich featuring Thomas Keller of French Laundry." And no, I really don’t know why it’s there either. Also, you can watch the promo “Making of” featurette where everyone talks about how great it was to work with everyone else in case you missed it when it was run in-between movies on HBO.
It's a very sweet, well done movie. It's written and directed by James L. Brooks which means three things.
1. It's very long.
2. It makes you feel good.
3. It's tremendously well written.
Adam Sandler stars as the world's greatest dad, who was named the "best chef in the country" by the LA Times. He runs a highly successful restraunt, and has a good enough staff that he can spend time with his family in their gorgeous home. He is married to Tea Leoni, and his mother in law is the hysterical Cloris Leachman. They have a daughter as well, though the focus is on the married couple and their nanny, who I'll mention shortly.
The film is narrated by the daughter of the nanny as if she is writing this story as an admissions essay to a prestigious university (Princeton I believe?) the school name is irrelevant though. What we see is a story that began probably 7-10 years earlier, as she briefly goes through the details of her family immigrating from Mexico to America for a better life. The mother worked two jobs to make ends meet in LA, and they were happy. She could speak fluent Spanish and get away with it, and she rarely ventured out of the neighborhood.
Until her daughter got interested in boys. Then she realized that she couldn't work nights, and applied for a day job as the nanny of the Kaskeys (Sandler and Leoni).
The rest of what we see is a blending of great lines from Sandler, who gives arguably his best performance here. He plays what can best be described as a serious version of the lovable doof he plays in his comedies. Not quite the character in Punch-Drunk Love, but the same sort of quiet seriousness that he does very well. Leoni is respectable as his incredibly low self-esteemed wife, who seems to be obsessed with keeping in shape after the birth of her child, and one of the better scenes in the film comes when she buys clothing a size too small for her daughter as a way of encouraging her to keep the weight off. You can tell she means well, but it doesn't succeed, and Sandler is outstanding here, conveying a father who wants to be on the same page with his wife, but can't agree with many of the things she does with their daughter.
On the other side is Flor the nanny. She is a strict guardian of her daughter Christina, who is brilliant and bilingual. Flor is very strict, but very loving at the same time, and she is exactly what Sandler is looking for in a woman.
We'll leave it with that.
Mrs. Kaskey lets her insecurity get in the way far too often, and she eventually begins to adopt Christina as her own daughter of sorts. She pulls strings to get Christina a scholarship to a very prestigious private school, and the girl loves it.
Eventually, for reasons we can't discuss, she has to leave that school, and she's furious with Flor, who gives my favorite line of the movie in response.
"Is it everything you want to become nothing like me?"
This is a film about parenting, about marriage, about communication, and about love of all forms, and it's all done very well with many comedic moments to boot.
I heard nothing amazing about this movie beforehand. No one really jumps up and down and proclaims it a great movie. It was surprisingly wonderful. It's a story about Flor, played by the beautiful Paz Vega who leaves Mexico and comes to the United States and goes for a good job as a housekeeper in order to keep her daughter's best interests at heart. She works for Adam Sandler (John Clasky) and his wife Téa Leoni (Deborah Clasky). Let me just say first and foremost that I've never seen Téa Leoni look worse or act crazier. Deborah Clasky is a woman with low self esteem in the middle of some sort of early mid-life crisis. She is the classic says-whatever-pops-into-her-head no matter who it offends person and yet is so selfish that she only thinks about her own desires over that of the others. For example, she wants her daughter to lose weight for her own good, but what the daughter could really use is some love and encouragement instead of constant emotional abuse. She is an uber-emotional character with mood swings up the wazoo and gets into these fits where her voice gets crazy high-pitched and fast and she can't be understood. Several times in this movie with her character, as well as Flor's, I'd have to rewind a little to figure out what I missed.
John Clasky is a decent human being, an amazingly talented chef, and a great father to his kids. Adam Sandler is damn close to being a good enough actor to handle it. In fact, he was great in every scene, short of a few moments. Somewhere in his career early on, he learned that things are funnier when they are louder. So he has been known to shout without warning in his movies. In this movie, it maybe works in one scene in a car where he really needs to vent. In other scenes, ("GET OUT OF THE WIND!") it really doesn't apply. It takes you out of the moment and makes you see Adam Sandler playing John Clasky instead of John Clasky as himself. But I give the guy credit for giving a great effort, particularly with the scenes with his daughter. They were very heartfelt.
I can't say enough about Paz Vega playing Flor. She's just so sweet, stubborn, and occasionally naive not to mention adorable that you can't help but cheer for her the whole movie. Her journey is based on making decisions for her daughter and trying to figure out what will be best in raising her. Since the whole movie is told from a narration perspective of an admissions essay to Princeton her daugher wrote, I'd say her mother did something right. I've never seen a more polite daughter in a movie before. I learned after watching that Paz Vega really doesn't speak english at all so they had a translator on the set for her. What an amazing challenge that must have been in itself and I'm sure it lended some realism to the movie.
I also have to put in an honorable mention for Cloris Leachman who plays Evelyn Wright, Deborah's mother who lives with them. For most of the movie, she is a drunk but she can still see things clearly more than most characters. At one point, she thanks Flor for not judging her. She sees her daugher's downward spiral and decides to take action by sobering up and telling her to knock it off. She finally feels like a mother again and because Deborah is so messed up, she has to listen!
I kind of hoped the ending would be a little different, but the movie's focus was on family, not romance.
This movie is much deeper than you'd expect. Some surprising truisms underneath the quirky humor. With Adam Sandler in the lead role, I was skeptical, but I was pleasantly surprised at his portrayal of John, a bonafide nice guy. A five-star chef, John has learned to put his success in second place to his family. Just as their marriage issues begin to come to a head, John’s neurotic wife (Tea Leoni) hires Flor, a beautiful, live-in maid, who speaks almost no English. As tensions rise, John and Flor find themselves drawn to each other. I enjoyed the way the family was portrayed – a little bit dysfunctional & “crazy” – rather than glossing over all the quirks and foibles which can make “Family” a dirty word. I even enjoyed Cloris Leachman -- John’s mother-in-law -- as a faded celebrity, struggling with alcoholism. I think her character was a little bit repulsive, and at the same time likeable, as she confronted the problems in the family. My favorite line was when Deborah (Tea), with a swollen red nose and her face covered in tears, asks her mother (Cloris), “Do I need some make-up?” Wiping away her daughter’s runny nose, she quips, “At this point you need a hose, but it’s good that you look like this right now. It’s real.” Most of all, I appreciated that, in facing the question of infidelity, the writers didn't simply take the easy way out by making one person "wrong" and the other person "right". Instead, they had the courage to portray the struggle to be faithful, even when it would be so much easier – and even justifiable – not to.
I thought this movie shined because of Paz Vega who plays Flor, the Mexican housekeeper hired by Adam Sandler and his on-screen wife, Tea Leoni. Sandler is a talente chef with his own restaurant and his wife is an emotional wreck with issues, but the story actually works because it's told well. Jasmes L. Brooks wrote this and made it flow nicely. I'm not a huge fan of Sandler but it's not his worst work. Vega and the girl who plays her daughter are terrific, they really throw themselves into their roles. The comic surprise for me was Cloris Leachman, who plays Leoni's mother who drinks through the entire movie, she was very funny, I thought. All in all, a pretty good movie.