November 4, 2005
From the man that brought us some of the best dramas and comedies in the recent-present like As Good As It Gets, Jerry Maguire and Riding in Cars With Boys, and let’s not forget his writing duties on The Simpsons. James L Brooks directs a superbly crafted film. From script to screen, not many feet are out of place on this one; even the Spanish actress Paz Vega is not half as annoying as Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek. A good mixture of characters and themes worth mentioning makes Spanglish a dramatic rom-com not to be missed.
A Mexican woman and her young daughter emigrate to America to try and rebuild their lives after their husband/father left them, and finds a job as hired help for a wealthy family. This family may be rich but by no means are they perfect, constructed of the overweight teenage daughter, the alcoholic grandmother and the eccentrically insecure wife, who don’t seem to deserve the man of the house, the hard working critically acclaimed chef. As his business flies high, his marriage is slowly falling apart and introducing the beautiful Spanish speaking Flor,only confuses things, as he deals with the language barrier and his growing attraction towards her.
Adam Sandler has shied slightly away from his usual comedy role and plays this one more for the sensitive drama rather than laughs and does so perfectly as the five star culinary expert John Clasky. He is also wonderfully backed up by Tea Leoni whose portrayal of his wife, Deborah, is such a delight to watch, even when she is being mind-numbingly neurotic, weirdly hyperactive or down right selfish. Paz Vega was plucked straight from the Spanish film industry and was dead right for this role, being that she really could not speak a word of English and was dealing with the language problem exactly as her character was.
The script is excellent, touching on many themes, the most obvious being motherhood. The contradictions and comparisons are captivating as we see the tales of mothers and daughters, the rich and the poor, which really heats up when we see the overprotective Flors’ reluctance to bring her daughter, Cristina, to a modern American household and Deborah treating Cristina as if she was one of her own and alienating her own children. All ending in a highly satisfactory conclusion well worthy of the title – tearjerker. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the story is the attachment and bonds that build between the characters, especially that of Flor and Cristina, as Cristina learns English from a young age and becomes more integrated into American society and is having to act as a translator and a mediator for her mother. The only mystery is the why we had a barrage of redundant or underused characters such as Deborah and John’s son and also a cameo from Thomas Hayden Church as a realtor, especially when these characters could have been used so effectively.
Although quite a hefty portion of Vaz Pegas’ dialogue is in Spanish and without subtitles, audiences need not worry as that is part of the fun, not understanding and watching those around her try. There is nothing bold or fancy about Spanglish it’s just a good story, with good acting and touching moments. Hardcore Sandler fans might be disappointed with the ‘grown-up’ nature of the film but if you can find the beauty in a child seeing the Malibu Ocean for the first time, you can find it here, in Spanglish.
Not much to rave about here. 30 minutes of additional scenes in which nothing revolutionary happens. 8 minutes of casting with optional commentary. 12 minutes of a pretty good Making of… giving us a good look at the director, more than any of the cast. An unexpected highlight of the extras is the ‘How to make the world’s greatest sandwich’ feature, in which a chef shows Adam Sandler how to create a mammoth of a snack and also gives you the recipe at the end. This technique is also recreated in the movie itself.