"You don't speak any
Fleeing from Mexico, Flor (Vega) and her daughter Cristina
(Bruce) try and make a life for themselves in USA. After living there for
six years, Cristina is growing up and Flor needs more money to give her
the life she deserves. Her cousin Monica (Suárez) arranges an interview
for her with the Clasky's, to be their maid. Even though Flor gets the job
she finds that not speaking any English is not the only problem she will
come up against.
Writer/director James L. Brooks has an excellent comedic pedigree
but can 'Spanglish' keep up his reputation?
After the success of 'Teams of Endearment', 'Broadcast News'
and 'As Good As It Gets', anticipation for the next film by Brooks was always
going to be high but 'Spanglish' is a disappointment compared to that illustrious
three. The film just doesn't have the characters or storyline to keep you
engaged for duration of the movie.
The language barrier has many opportunities for comedy, as
differences and similarities between different cultures can be a hotbed
for comedy but the movie doesn't really push these to their full potential.
While no one was ever going to expect any racist jokes from Brooks, you
do expect the odd few plays on cultural diversity, not from the Mexican
character's standpoint but as she enters into the strange world of white
America in Los Angeles. Brooks does create a slightly dysfunctional family
but none of their problems are anything we haven't seen before.
The Clasky's are your stereotypical rich family that has graced
many a film. You have a neurotic wife, Deborah (played by the underrated
Téa Leoni) who thinks everything and everyone is against her as she tries
to make her life and everyone's around her perfect. You have a slightly
overweight and under confident daughter, Bernice (played by newcomer Sarah
Steele) who just needs someone to believe in her to make her better about
herself. You have a son Georgie, who is slightly kooky and a Grandmother,
Evelyn (played wonderfully by Cloris Leachman, providing most of the laughs)
who is your typical ex-show business type with a drinking problem. Finally
you have the head of the household, John (played by a very restrained Adam
Sandler) an internationally renowned chef and an all around nice guy who
is continually dumped upon by his wife, making you wonder why they are still
together. A colourful collection of characters you may think but there is
absolutely nothing new here to pull you into their world.
Brooks wisely makes these secondary characters however and
the film comes from the prospective of Cristina. Narrated from an essay
that accompanies Cristina's application to Princeton University, the film
outlines the daughter's respect and love for what her mother has achieved
since moving from Mexico to USA. She tells us about growing up within the
Hispanic community for six years and then how her and her mother became
involved with the Clasky's. The pair then becomes the driving force of the
movie with the dysfunctional Clasky's trying to drag them into their very
small problems. Both Paz Vega and Shelbie Bruce are excellent as Flor and
the older Cristina as we follow them into this new world but Brooks concentrates
too much on the language barrier more than the culture differences angle
to create his laughs. While the exchanges between Flor and the family, with
Cristina interpreting are entertaining, this becomes a one-joke movie that
really doesn't even push that to its full potential.
Fans of James L. Brooks would have been expecting a lot from
'Spanglish' but what they get is a movie were nothing much happens. With
only a few laughs and far too much melodrama, the movie just isn't as entertaining
as it should have been, especially with the cast involved. In fact it is
their performances alone that stop it from been a complete disaster. This
is not a film about the language barrier but a barrier to comedy.
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
sound, the movie is presented well.
Commentary from James L. Brooks, Mark Richards and Tia Nolan
The director and his two editors come together to talk about bringing
'Spanglish' to the silver screen. The trio discuss how they approached
the movie, mentioning their decision to not to have subtitles for Flor
and how this affected the telling of the story. They also chat about the
characters and the casting process, revealing how they found each actor
for the roles and how long it took them to find the child actors. The
main emphasis of the track, as you expect is the editorial decisions and
this gives the commentary a slightly different approach than the usual
patting on the back type, making it a much better listen
Additional Scenes (30.47 mins)
A collection of twelve additional or extended scenes with optional commentary
by director James L. Brooks and editors Mark Richards and Tia Nolan. The
trio explain why the scenes were removed from the final cut, talk about
the performances from the actors and how difficult it was to remove them.
HBO First Look: The Making of 'Spanglish' (13.02 mins)
Writer/director James L. Brooks and stars Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Cloris
Leachman, Shelbie Bruce, Cecilia Suárez, Paz Vega and Sarah Steele talk
about bringing 'Spanglish' to the silver screen. The group talk about
the characters with the writer/director revealing secrets about the casting
process and the actual language problems that occurred on set with Paz
Vega actually mirroring her character by learning English as the film
progressed. This is your usually backslapping featurette that really doesn't
reveal much about the creative process behind the film.
How to make the world's greatest sandwich featuring Thomas Keller
This featurette takes you behind the scenes of Adam Sandler's chef training
as he learns to make the world's best BLT for a scene in the movie. Famed
chef Thomas Keller also gives you the recipe to this appetising snack.
Casting Sessions (4.24 mins)
With optional commentary from director James L. Brooks and editors Mark
Richards and Tia Nolan, watch the casting sessions for Victoria Luna (young
Cristina), Shelbie Bruce (older Cristina), Sarah Steele (Bernice) and
Paz Vega (Flor).
A decidingly average movie gets an above average DVD treatment. The commentary
track is good, as are the deleted scenes. The making of featurette doesn't
revel much but the recipe for the world's greatest sandwich more than
makes up for this. Fans of the film will be pleased at the content.
Good As It Gets
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