Spanglish directed by James L. Brooks

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Part of the problem with the way I view movies is that I almost never see them when everyone else does. So, I fall victim to hearing the hype and developing preconceived notions before every film. Spanglish was one of these films. I had heard it was fantastic. I spent the first half-hour thinking the movie was not that great after all. It was good, but not amazing.

My compliments go to the costumer and hair designer. While the eighteenth-century epic may win the Academy Award, the modern film is very difficult to wardrobe correctly. Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni) wears the quasi casual clothing of a housewife with means: pressed linen shirts that hang from a thin frame of a woman struggling with her image, living inside her Pottery-Barn home. She is a runner who is incredibly competitive, to the point of exercise-driven bulimia. Flor Moreno (Paz Vega) is a softer woman with more curves, and while her clothing follows her curves, it is not overly tight to leave nothing left to guess. This softness carries into her mild manner and feminine sensual nature. The costumes perfectly match the characters.

While the two women dominate the movie, the other characters play vital roles. Both of the daughters in the film display great range and depth. I’m always sucked into a story of being an unattractive child like Bernice (Sarah Steele). While my mother was always wonderful to me (in contrast to Bernice’s), I still have very painful scars from being mocked. I had a “boyfriend??? when I was five, and when he saw me again at age 11, he ran away. In high school, he described to me how he felt when he saw me: I had been a cute little girl and had grown into a monster. He actually used the word “monster…???

But I digress. Seeing the insecure mother prefer the attractive child over her own daughter, it was personally painful. This behavior isn’t just about attractiveness: parents do this more subtly with sports, academics, and a whole myriad of behaviors. John Clasky (Adam Sandler) is wonderfully supportive of his daughter, reminding me of my own parents as he not only loves her but respects her.

Which brings me to Adam Sandler. Looking at him without singing “Red-Hooded Sweatshirt??? is hard, but his role here pulls him into completely serious territory. His introverted style was an incredible counterpart to his usually goofy, over-the-top caricatures. I loved it. Under good direction, Sandler allows quiet moments on screen: acting with subtle expression and soft reflection.

On a personal note, watching a chef in a movie is fun. I actually preferred seeing what he cooked at home. At one point, he sits down with a beautiful toasted sandwich and a perfectly poured pilsner and I wanted to have that meal! It was a very nice touch.

And Evelyn, Deborah’s mom, delivers one of my favorite movie quotes. Her daughter’s insecurity has led to miserable choices such as treating her daughter poorly and ignoring her marriage vows. Deborah is whining about her feelings, and Evelyn (Cloris Leachman) says: “lately, my dear, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.???

Well done.

[rate 4]

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