Directed by: James L. Brooks
Premise: A single mother (Paz Vega) emigrates from Mexico to the United States and does housework for a troubled suburban family.
What Works: This is a film about relationships within a family and Spanglish uses the language barrier as a way of exploring the roadblocks to communication. The plot builds and supports this through the actions of the characters. The first half of the film is most effective as the characters act and react to one another. Paz Vega’s performance is very good and she captures a woman who is out of her element. Her relationship with her daughter (Victoria Luna) is very amusing and interesting. Two other stand-out performances are by Adam Sandler, as a pushover husband and Cloris Leachman as his borderline alcoholic mother-in-law. Tea Leoni does well with an underwritten part as Sandler’s impatient wife.
What Doesn’t: The characters and their relationships are very similar to As Good As It Gets, another Brooks film. The trouble with Spanglish is that many of the conflicts are internalized and do not show themselves through action so much as they are spoken in an expository manner. While there are some nice bits of double-speak dialogue, the conflicts in Spanglish remain somewhat ambiguous.
DVD extras: Commentary track, featurette, deleted scenes, “How To Make the World’s Greatest Sandwich” featuring Tomas Keller of the French Laundry.
Bottom Line: Spanglish is a fun film that explores the intersection between the immigrant experience and the daily life of established US citizens. Its first rate acting performances make up for the understated conflict in the narrative and gives the film a depth and humor it might not have had otherwise.
Episode: #56 (June 19, 2005)