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Deborah, a high strung neurotic woman, solves all her problems with money. Flor, on the other hand, has her feet well planted on the ground and has to be careful with her money. In fact, the problems between Deb, the employer, and Flor, the maid, come to a head when the family goes to spend their summer at a Malibu rental. It's inconvenient for Flor to go by bus, and because she has a daughter, Cristina, who she will not part with for all the money in the world. Deborah's solution is to invite Cristina, the maid's daughter to come to stay at the beach.
James L. Brooks, the writer/director of "Spanglish", shows why he is one of the top people working in movies today with this tale about class difference. We are given two strong women, Deborah, who is an unhappy person, and Flor, a woman from another culture, but one with a clear sense of what's right and wrong, with a tremendous sense of who she is and a devotion to her daughter, who she feels is being spoiled by her employer.
There's another problem in the Clasky's household. John Clasky, the head of the house is a noted chef who is completely taken for granted by Deborah. John goes along with the situation, but he has no clue as to what his wife has been doing behind his back, getting into an affair with the real estate man. Deborah completely neglects her sensitive daughter Bernice, who is overweight because of the unhappiness in her house. Also, Deborah's mother Evelyn has a drinking problem. Flor, the maid, a woman with limited education, has more common sense in dealing with all the members of the Clasky's household than Deborah.
Paz Vega, as Flor Moreno, makes a splash with her portrayal of the maid. In fact, Ms. Vega hardly speaks any English, but one doesn't even seem to notice. It's to Paz Vega's credit, making her American debut, that she steals the film from the stars of the film. This actress makes the viewer root for Flor in her efforts to save her own daughter from the excesses she sees in the Claskys.
Tea Leoni plays Deborah Clasky. Ms. Leoni gives a good performance as this confused woman who, in wanting to please her maid, irritates her by exposing young Cristina into things out of her league. Adam Sandler is good also in this more dramatic role that probably his fans will not like, but in fact, it makes perfect sense.
Young Sarah Steele is another surprise in the movie. As Berenice, the plump daughter of the Claskys, she promises to have a natural sense about acting. Cloris Leachman is Evelyn, a former jazz singer who drinks too much. Shelbie Bruce is also good as Cristina.
"Spanglish" is worth taking a look into because the situation it presents is real and Mr. Brooks inspired direction and writing.
Deborah Clasky (Tea Leoni) hires a housekeeper/cook, Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), who doesn't speak English. Flor, a single mother, has a teenaged daughter, Cristina, and the two eventually move into a summer beach house with Leoni, her two kids, and husband, John Clasky (Adam Sandler), a world renowned chef. Deborah is a nervous, controlling type A personality, who has recently lost her job and begins to question her worth. Her subsequent actions such as lowering the self esteem of her overweight daughter, Bernice, and doting over Flor's daughter without mother's consent starts a sequence of events that pulls the two families apart and draw two frustrated, lonely people together, namely Sandler and Vega. They connect, of course, but what they do about it forms the focus of the storyline. At times this film thematically recalls classics like Roman Holiday or Brief Encounter.
The film begins in such a manner to make one think that it isn't anything special but builds its story and characters into solid foundations until you begin to care about what happens. This is almost two films thematically. There is the developing love story between Sandler and Vega, and there is also the story of Vega, the mother, and her daughter. This is not just a family torn apart or a budding, forbidden romance, it is also the core mother-daughter dynamic seen though the teenaged daughters and their respective mothers. The narrative from Cristina's point of view recalls I Remember Mama. And let us not forget the relationship of Deborah and her own mother (Cloris Leachman-a Brooks alumnus from The Mary Tyler Moore Show). The ending is a bit open ended for one storyline while the other is resolved quite nicely.
At times, the dialogue (a good portion is in Spanish and cleverly translated or communicated through context without subtitles) is crisp and sharp and other times, the story seems to tease without delivering and seemingly loses track until it gets reeled back by a brilliant line or two. Some of the situations seem a bit forced or going nowhere but Brooks has spoiled his audiences with his top flight writing over the years. It is remarkable that he can show lesser filmmakers how to write and construct a superior screenplay about people that an audience cares about. He makes stories about people that matter.
Tea Leoni is good in her role as the neurotic housewife who becomes self absorbed. At times her character downright grates on the nerves, and you wonder how a man like Sandler's compassionate, loving husband/father, puts up with her behavior. Sandler does fine with his down-to-earth, dramatic role which contrasts with his quirky romantic in Punch Drunk Love. One wonders what a stronger persona like Brooks alumnus Jack Nicholson or even Tom Hanks would have done with his role. All the supporting roles are effective as usual. Leachman registers as the mother who consoles her adult daughter and is the voice of reason despite being the family alcoholic. Even the family dog becomes a small but noteworthy supporting character. There is also an amusing cameo by Thomas Haden Church who plays a character not unlike his more substantial role in Sideways.
Production values are strong across the board particularly in the cinematography by John Seale. But it's really all about the writing and the acting. The film feels like it wants to be something more but settles for the quality of a moderate Brooks film like Broadcast News. The film will elicit laughs and some tears but it is consistently engaging. Wouldn't it be nice if more films could even reach that level of writing and acting? Is this a great film? No. It is merely a well written story, and that's pretty good on its own.
Why would Flor, the housekeeper for the Clasky's give up here daughter's private school scholarship?
There's no way a gorgeous woman like Flor would be unmarried and working as a housekeeper in Beverly Hills.
Tea Leoni's character is bipolar.
The film tries to tackle too many story lines at once.
The proof of SPANGLISH's excellence is that everybody sees something different, and I think that's where its greatness is. I also think we'll be watching it for years to come with an ever-developing affection and cult-like devotion. I'm assuming you've read the plot line, so I'll just stick to the aspects of this movie which made it such a great experience for me.
Brooks' real talent is in giving us stories about people we care about, even after we've decided we don't like them. Shirley MacLaine's great performance in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, and Jack Nicholson's in AS GOOD AS IT GETS are not nice people, nor are the three leads in BROADCAST NEWS very likable, but they grow on you. In SPANGLISH we enter the lives of a upwardly mobile Los Angeles couple, both driven by their work which makes them nuts, but too busy to get off the treadmill and smell the flowers.
Tea Leoni 's Deborah is a character who is very neurotic, controlling, arrogant, competitive, spoiled, bratty, cold, and all-too-human. Now a full-time house- mommy after being downsized by her company, she's feeling unfulfilled and dazed by being somehow reduced to motherhood. Leoni gives an incredibly brave performance, and you still don't like her in the end. Adam Sandler, putting aside his obnoxious screen schtick for a second, is totally believable as John, the sweetly hen-pecked and cuckolded husband, who is falling for Flor. Scared of his success as a first-rate chef, he's nearly paralyzed when his sous-chef announces he has the backing to leave and open his own place. But as usual, both husband and wife throw money at any situation that seems to threaten them. Cloris Leachman is back to remind us just what a superb character actress she is, and her wise and loving alcoholic grandmother who is indulged and ignored and condescended to by her daughter, ends up with some of the wisest advice she can give her daughter when the crisis of her marriage has to be faced in real terms and without her usual hysterics. Grandma has lots to atone for over her own neglect, and Leachman's character seems brave enough to put down the booze and face the music.
Paz Vega is a gorgeous woman and is radiant as Flor, the housekeeper. She's a wonderfully protective mother, and she gets totally caught up in her employer's dysfunctional family. The device of having her speaking only Spanish in the first half of the movie, and shyly testing her English in the second half really works as she is an expressive actress. I had no trouble reading her thoughts. All the kids are pitch-perfect, especially the young actress who plays the Clasky's daughter, Bernice. Crushed by her mother's never-subtle hints about her weight, there's a heartbreaking scene where her mother gives her shopping bags of new clothing, all of it too small to fit her.
Brooks doesn't offer any tidy answers here. His characters don't emerge "better"--they just are. Flor quits and takes her beloved daughter with her, away from Deborah, who acts like the only reason she helps to arrange a scholarship for her at her daughter's private school and showers her with gifts, is because Flor's child is really the kid she would prefer to have. And away from John because she knows there's no future for her. She's not a home-wrecker, and she wants to preserve her daughter's own identify, not become middle-class and Anglo. Many people would argue she's nuts to deny her daughter, including me. But I see Brooks' point. You know Deborah and John will probably not stay together. She's wound way too tight, and when her daughter goes through puberty, war will be declared in that household.
As much as I liked Sandler's warm and neurotically hen-pecked patriarch, he's way too passive-aggressive in his own house, colluding with his daughter to make up for her mother's insensitivity. Grandma may have put herself on the wagon to save her daughter's marriage, but there are issues between them from their past that need lots of healing. And what of the virtually ignored little brother?
A little messy, and hugely ambitious, SPANGLISH is a lot like life. Brooks is a great auteur, and here he offers no easy answers of solutions. He keeps giving us films with characters with depth that we recognize and care about. His is a great talent in an industry where humor and intelligence are in very short supply. I watched this film with a friend of mine who started to cry halfway through the picture and didn't stop.
SPANGLISH is going into my permanent DVD collection.
As the title implies, the movie makes a very interesting and subtle social commentary about the Mexican American dynamics/contrast in society. Obviously as expected, the film illustrates a few stereotypes. For example, when Florrr's (played by Paz Vega) cousin, Cecilia hit the sliding glass door and her nose bled, the wife Deborah Clasky (played by Tia Leone) offered her money instead. It's sad but true in today's society.
But what make the film interesting are its subtleties. For instance the casting and the characters itself. The producers could have hired a blonde blue eyed male lead instead of Adam Sandler, but they did not. Why? Because Sandler's character (John Clasky) is an antithesis of the wife, Deborah Clasky. She's blonde blue eyed superficial, emotionally disturbed, patronizing, solipsistic, white housewife, who the writer ( Brooks )probably wants to portray as the epitome of everything that is bad about white people - or Americans for that matter (however exaggerated they portrayed her to be). You can empathize with the husband's character and Adam Sandler played it very well. It's interesting to note, the husbands character's last name is Clasky - possibly his ancestors were immigrants as well. And his character is portrayed as someone who "gets it", someone who understands Florrr - an immigrant mother who wants her daughter raised with her own values and integrity even though she is only a lowly servant to the Clasky's.
One of the interesting scenes in the film that I found very clever was the argument between Florrrr and John. It showed the two sides of the dynamic. While I was watching it I thought to myself, any other individual would immediately apologize and patronize the immigrant housemaid in the expense of goodwill. But I was surprised that Sandler's character actually called her a "hypocrite" instead, and she realized he has a point. Not to criticize her (it's probably what Deborah would have done) would be hypocritical as well. This is another social commentary that was written very well and cleverly portrayed in the film.
The acting is equally superb. You could just hate some of the characters specially the housewife and the daughter Cristina Moreno (played by Shelbie Bruce). You can just empathize with Adam Sandler's character and his daughter, Bernice. The only people amongst the Claskys that is very adult. The grandmother's character on the other hand (played by Cloris Leachman ) whose always drinking provides a respite to the insanity in the story and ironically always the unobtrusive and yet emphatic character despite how she lived her life. In the end she was the voice of reason for the wife.
Equally, the dialogue is worth mentioning. Interestingly, there are no subtitles on all the Spanish spoken dialogue but the audience can kind of get the gist of what's being said or argued. It can be distracting to some audiences but thankfully, Florrr's character learned to speak English in the second half of the film. Also, the Spanish without subtitles added a few good scenes in the film and added a positive credence to the title SPANGLISH. It illustrates how to write the quintessential part of the screenplay without making it too cliché.
Overall, I liked this film. If you can look at it in the same light as I saw the film, you would enjoy it too and find it cleverly written and directed. Otherwise, it could be a little slow and the dialogue can be a little bit distracting. It doesn't help some of it is in Spanish and Adam sandler's character cannot express himself very well verbally.
Here, Spanglish is not a mixture of the two languages, but instead, more of an encounter, and yes, at times, a clash between two cultures: That of "Gringos" and of Latinos! More than anything else, Spanglish speaks to all Hispanics of just how hard living in the United States can be, at times. To assimilate into its culture without losing ones Latin roots. The film manages to do so in a most convincing and believable way, highlighting some of the positive values of Latino culture, but, at the same time, respecting the dignity of all the characters in the film, while avoiding most, but not all, of the ridiculous stereotypes that abound in Hollywood!
There is most certainly something in Spanglish for every member of your family! (There is one brief scene of a loving marriage encounter, but not graphic in the least.) The cast is fabulous. Spaniard Paz Vega appears quite natural and convincing as Mexican Flor Moreno. Adam Sandler shows definite versatility as both a dramatic and comedic actor. Tea Leoni, here almost outshines everyone in her role of a rather endearing but neurotic American housewife. And the young, Shelbie Bruce, playing the role of Flor's daughter, Cristina, waxes totally bilingual/bi-cultural.
However, do not let your previewing expectations get too high! Regardless of being a must see film for all Hispanics who live, have lived or who have had an extended stay in the U.S., Spanglish does have its flaws. Producer/director/writer, James L. Brooks, despite having directed such classics as Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets and Terms of Endearment, seems, at times. to have become too enamored of his own work, resulting In some excesses. The film drags on for over 2 hours. It would have been a more enjoyable film if Brooks had left at least 10 or 15 minutes on the cutting room floor.
Spanglish also suffers from moments of poor writing and direction of its principle characters, with too many mugging facial close-ups. These exaggerated expressions often did not seem the least bit natural. Spanglish also Tried to convince us that someone can go from a beginner in English to someone with tremendous proficiency in a breezy 2 or 3 months! Even taking a 50 hour per week immersion course, that's a pretty tall order! If it were that easy, everyone would speak five languages, right? (As the owner/director of language institutes for 40 years, believe me, I'm an EXPERT!)
Despite its flaws, Spanglish is guaranteed to have a decidedly positive impact! 7.5*......ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!
Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
Here's my other problem with it. The realism of having a tall, skinny, light-skinned Mexican woman with no boyfriend and a wonderfully behaved kid working as a live-in housekeeper just seems like a male fantasy trying to play reality. I mean, how realistic is that? The acting was average at best, but a really poor performance by the daughter of Adam Sandler's character (sometimes you can see her trying to cover up a smile while getting angry).
While I tried to like this movie and the story definitely had a lot of potential, there were major problems and this one had a snore factor. Some things could have been explored more, like the dad's relationship with the kids (you rarely saw how they bonded) and the stupid dog thing could have been cut. Well, it could be worth a look/see if it's on cable, but save your rental fee or $20.
The gorgeous, thin Mexican maid -- and trust me, none of them look like her in Beverly Hills -- wears two hundred dollar blouses she could never afford and presents us with a portrait of almost saint like devotion to her only child. Then in the end, she refuses to allow the child to continue her education on scholarship at a private school. We are supposed to believe that this daughter went on to a public school I guess, on the other side of L.A. and ended up applying to Princeton? Puh-leese! Did anyone involved with this production visit a public school in L.A. recently? I attended one 30 years ago and my mother still teaches in the school system, which is now about 90% Hispanic and/or African American. The schools today are disaster areas with metal detectors, under-performing warehouses for the children of the poor that do not prepare their students for state college, much less the Ivy League.
There were some great one liners and the two young girls who played the daughters are both excellent actresses, but all in all, this was a real mess -- and a miss by Brooks. It can't hold a candle to "Terms of Endearment" or even an old episode of Mary Tyler Moore.
Begin with the oh-so-heartwrenching story of a single mother forced to flee her native land in search of a better future for her daughter. Of course, the daughter will end up attending Princeton and her entrance essay is the premise of the storytelling in this movie. Shaking your head in bewilderment? It gets better (worse, actually).
The dysfunctional family that the mother finds work with is possessed of a shrew of a father (the soft, unimposing and backbone-free Sandler) who is dominated by his overacting, speed freak-like, obsessive wife (Leoni), and round it out with a live-in, late-stage alcoholic mother-in-law (who of course, acts as a moral compass thanks to the wisdom gained by decades of squandering her life in a booze-soaked haze. Please!) and a few damaged, totally unbelievable kids. Viola, enough ammo for "drama" to make any menopausal woman salivate in anticipation of the impending deluge of emotional excess that comes with such movies.
The problem is, there is not one scene in the movie where the characters earn your empathy. If there was ever a point where the viewer was meant to wonder what was going to happen next, or what course of action a character might take, I missed it. I believe it would be impossible to find a point in the movie that was not spelled out and spoon-fed to the viewer in the most plain and predictable terms.
Another problem I have with this picture is the off-target promotion it received. It is not a comedy. I don't know what it is in terms of genre. Suicide-accelerant maybe? Since there are so many who love this movie, I'm sure that my review won't stop you if you want to see it. However, if your wife/girlfriend suggests you watch this movie, I urge you to spare yourself the agony you are sure to endure if you sit through this one. I warned you.
My problem is with the writers. This is the least entertaining screenplay I have ever seen. It may be making a bunch of social statements but I do not find them entertaining. Worst of all every improbable piece of every slowly developing story line just never plays out to any reasonable conclusion. I found my self so dis-satisfied that after the movie stops (it has no ending per se, it just stops), I walk out trying to write my own fairale stopend to Spanglish, a comdram I could have done without! I got it - illegal immigrant gets Bachelor's from Princeton, Master's from Yale and PhD from Harvard, becomes President of the US. She changes law so that Sandler's character can marry her mother while still married to his own wife.
This movie should be rated D for Dumbest Sandler effort to date.
Spanglish is full of great humour, engrossing drama and has a great story with a valuable lesson behind it. A definite must see.
To elaborate on these points: Téa Leoni's characterization was so over-the-top that I genuinely felt sorry for the actress. As her character Deborah Clasky was hyperventilating and contorted in her facial grimaces, I honestly felt that this poor actress had aged ten years by the end of the film.
In their acting styles, it appeared as though the principals were all acting in different films: the hyper-kinetic Leoni, the understated Adam Sandler as gourmet chef and Deborah's husband John, Cloris Leachman's high comedy turn as the mother-in-law Evelyn, and Paz Vega as the family's omnipresent $650 per week major domo-housekeeper-psychoanalyst Flor. While "Spanglish" tried to evoke contemporary comedy of manners, it lacked the essential rhythms necessary for the humor because there was no uniform style.
In the film's main situation of Flor moving into the family's home, taking over the characters' lives, falling in love with John, enrolling her daughter in a pricey private school, the film was not grounded in reality. This family was no different than countless TV sitcom families. To raise the standards above that of mindless television comedy, there needed to be more substantial characters and a more honest portrayal of American family life and immigration than was delivered in this film.
Writer-director James L. Brooks might be capable of directing a good comedy of manners script, such as Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." But as a writer, Brooks is no Oscar Wilde, as apparent in the lack of imagination in the screen writing and the reprehensibly smug tone of "Spanglish."
Sadly, the result of my expectation has been crushing disappointment, for this film fails at so many levels that I couldn't find anything to keep me interested. Brooks's direction, for example, seemed to me amazingly clumsy and lacking in rhythm. Often you had the impression that the camera lingered too long on the actors, and they didn't know what to say, what to do or even where to stand. Sandler, again surprisingly, was the only one to exercise restraint in his performance, in between Leoni's and Vega's terrible overacting; both of them exaggerated their gestures so much you would think they were in a children's play by adults (Actually, it seemed to me the children in the movie were acting much better than them, especially Steele, who plays Sandler's daughter with disarming charm). Then again, good acting is not easy to achieve with a script this terrible: The dialog felt sometimes so fake that you could see them make efforts to sound half believable; the characters were hardly developed or made almost cartoonish (Deb, Tea Leoni's psychotic bundle of nerves of a wife would be the prime example); the situations often didn't make sense (Flor's attitude of fear and disdain towards Deb is completely beyond reason, even to the point of bigotry. Deb may be a neurotic, but Flor has good reason to be very grateful to her); subplots branched out in several directions but never really went anywhere; and the big plot, the development of the romantic spark between the protagonists, felt rushed and unrealistic and I simply could not believe a word of it. I just managed to bear the movie as it got worse and worse and was thankful when it ended, which is when I realized that it didn't just feel long to me; it's also that the thing is way too long!
Thumbs down to Brooks then, and better luck to Paz next time, I hope this mistake doesn't stop her rise to stardom.
Spanglish is a good movie backed up by some great performances by Paz Vega and Adam Sandler. Tea Leoni performs her role well and Cloris Leachman is an able support, at times adding a flavor of dry comedy.
I won't reveal the plot. All I'll say is it is worth your time. A funny movie with a solid story and something to take away later.
The story is essentially told as a flashback with the daughter recounting her experience with her mother. It is never spelt out whether they came to the USA from Mexico legally or not.
After hooking up with a cousin in LA and as the daughter gets older her mother Flor gets a job as a domestic for Tea Leoni and Adam Sandler.
Leoni is a neurotic mother, they have two children whilst Sandler is a top chef in a restaurant. Leoni's mother played by Cloris Leachman is an alcoholic but rather wise in her years.
Even though she has been in America for several years, Flor has learnt little English and has to communicate via her daughter or others who know Spanish. Flor is beautiful but she was abandoned by her husband hence why she moved to LA.
James Brooks of Terms of Endearment fame weaves another comedy drama examination the cultural clashes that ensue especially when the Sandler family move to a summer beach house for a few months and Flor comes and lives with them accompanied by her daughter.
Paz Vega is very good as Flor, the actors playing the various kids are very good as is Tea Leoni and Leachman. However Sandler in a straight role is weak. He comes across as nice, understanding, almost every man but he is not a strong enough actor to bring the nuances of his character to light. The film signals a budding romance with Paz but its difficult to buy not helped with last minute re-shoots which changed the ending.
Brooks who has shown a sure touch in previous ensemble films such as Broadcast News has maybe let this film meander a bit too much. It needs some focus and 20 minutes snipped off. It also needed a strong male lead actor.
Adam Sandler is great in what is more of a supporting role as John Clasky, a chef who is obsessed with being a good enough without raising the bar. Sandler is much more laid back and shows that he can do some good acting when the comedy and drama are mixed just right. Brooks shows us that he can have a good Adam Sandler performance without Adam Sandler being himself.
Tea Leoni shows some good acting chops as Sandler's lost and confused housewife. She is good in this role and shows that she can do good work as an actress. Cloris Leachman is brilliant as Leoni's mother who provides the voice of reason for her. Leachman is also funny at times.
James L. Brooks knows how to write and direct brilliantly to tell the story that he wants to tell. Brooks knows how to transition from scene to scene and have the transitions set up smoothly. Brooks is also great at directing his actors to get the performances that he wants.