(recommended by Julia)
Spanglish was written and directed by James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets). I was happily surprised at the depth of this comedy, and found it to be quite touching. The film stars Adam Sandler (50 First Dates), Tea Leoni, and Cloris Leachman.
Flor (Paz Vega) immigrates to Los Angeles from Mexico hoping for a better life for herself and her daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce). Flor eventually decides it would be beneficial to work one job rather than two so she can keep a better eye on her blossoming daughter, and ends up employed by the Clasky’s, Deborah (Tea Leoni) and John (Adam Sandler).
Flor does not speak English when the Clasky’s first hire her, and Cristina is forced to translate for her. There are no subtitles in the film, which is unusual, but I decided that it helped create the kind of atmosphere and difficulties that a family in their situation must find themselves in while trying to communicate.
This film is told from the point of view of Cristina, who has written an admissions essay to Princeton. She is looking back on her life with her mother and the choices her mother made for their family. Spanglish is really a film about honor. Flor has to make decisions to maintain the integrity of her family, both as an employee of the Clasky’s and as a woman.
This is because the Clasky’s are not a functional family. Deborah is a horrible mother, John is struggling with his work as a chef, and living with them is Deborah’s alcoholic mother (Cloris Leachman). Over a summer spent at the Clasky’s summer residence on the ocean, John and Flor become attracted to one another. They are simpatico, talking easily and often emotionally about their children and the decisions they make as parents.
When school begins in the fall, Cristina has a scholarship to the same school the Clasky’s daughter attends. Flor is growing increasingly uneasy about Deborah’s involvement with her daughter. Deborah meanwhile breaks down and tells John the secret she has been keeping from him. John leaves the house and runs into Flor. He invites Flor to his restaurant where he cooks her dinner. These scenes between John and Flor are very charged and sensual, and all too brief. Flor makes her decisions for the good of herself and her daughter, the decisions her daughter later has come to accept and appreciate.
I actually liked this film better than As Good as It Gets. I don’t recall it getting much press at the time it came out in theaters, and that is a shame. Adam Sandler is particularly good as the troubled chef not wanting to get too much acclaim, preferring a simpler life, and who is a good husband, who for many years has overlooked his histrionic wife’s drama.
I highly recommend this film to you. It mirrors a part of Los Angeles, both the privileged white class, and the 48% of Los Angeles that are the working Hispanics. I liked how the film resolved all the conflicts between its characters with integrity and honor.