"Spanglish" Aims for Cultural Clash with Heartwarming Tale
- Thursday, December 16, 2004
Release Date: December 17, 2004
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content and brief language)
Run Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.
Director: James L. Brooks
Actors: Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, Téa Leoni, Cloris Leachman, Sarah Steele, Shelbie Bruce, Ian Hyland, Aimee Garcia
Would you hire a drop-dead gorgeous maid who doesn’t speak a word of English, if you couldn’t even remember one or two words in Spanish and your marriage was in trouble? Well, I wouldn’t, but then again, I don’t live in Beverly Hills. Ay, caramba!
Several years after Flor (Paz Vega) and her daughter Christina (Shelbie Bruce) sneak into the U.S. from Mexico, Flor lands a housekeeping job with the Claskey family in Beverly Hills. That she doesn’t speak a word of English is not a problem, Deborah Claskey (Téa Leoni) insists to her husband, John (Adam Sandler), because “all she has to do is dial 911 and press 2 for Spanish.” So begins this cross-cultural adventure told largely through the eyes of Flor, as she comes smack against not only Anglo culture, but the mindset of one very dysfunctional family.
John is a renowned chef and owner of an up-and-coming restaurant, which affords his family luxuries like a huge house with pool, expensive cars, private schools and summers in Malibu. John’s an unbelievably nice guy that everyone loves and appreciates, except Deborah. Addicted to exercise and fits of neurosis, she has left the workforce to become a fulltime mother. “Gulp!” Deborah says about this, to which her teenage daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele) echoes, “Double gulp!” Deborah’s mother, Evelyn (Cloris Leachman), a former jazz singer and alcoholic, lives with the family and makes very astute observations, despite her inebriation. Flor vows to not get personally involved with the family, but after Deborah humiliates Bernice by buying clothes that are too small, in yet another failed attempt to coax her into losing weight, Flor secretly alters the clothes and presents them to the teen. The competition has begun.
The family heads to a rented Malibu home for the summer, and Deborah, who is too busy having an affair to notice the heated looks between her husband and gorgeous housekeeper, invites Flor and Christina to stay with them for the summer. Having successfully ignored her own children for years (including her almost invisible son), Deborah latches onto Christina and tries to turn her into a pint-sized version of herself. This lights a fire under Flor, who may not speak English, but who is no estupido. Then, of course, there’s the little matter of how frequently Deborah has left Flor and John together, to work out their problems, on the beach, in the Malibu moonlight, while everyone else is sleeping.
James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment,” “Broadcast News”) hasn’t had a huge hit since his 1997 “As Good As It Gets,” so he’s aiming for the outfield with this film, which has interesting characters and very droll dialogue, something Brooks excels at. “Wow,” says the clueless Deborah to Flor, about her beauty. “You could make a fortune in surrogate pregnancy!” Later, John says, “I don’t know if you know guilt, but…” to which Christina replies, “We know. We’re Catholics.” Perhaps the most insightful of his lines – and no doubt the lynchpin of this film – is when Deborah’s mother says to Flor, “I lived my life for myself. You live your life for your daughter. None of it works.”
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