Spanglish – 3 Stars (Good)

Spanglish is a relationship movie with a surprise ending in that the two principal characters in the movie actually do the right thing.

The story line involves a Mexican woman who emigrates to America with her daughter following a failed relationship to seek a better life. She becomes a housekeeper for an upscale family with some relationship problems, and becomes emotionally involved with the husband.

The husband (Adam Sandler) and the housekeeper (Paz Vega) manage to almost lose it but do not act on their impulses, separating at the end with the husband going back to his dysfunctional wife (Tea Leoni) and two children, and the housekeeper moving on to another chapter in her life.

This is so unlike Hollywood, where filmmakers in tinsel town cannot seem to get enough sex, violence and smut into a movie like this without regard for ethics, values or morals.

Everyone in this movie that actually matters is sensitive except the wife (who should know better) and the housekeeper’s daughter (who is young and immature).

All you need to know about the cruel wife is that she buys new clothes for her daughter that are two sizes too small as an incentive for her to loose weight. The daughter is overweight and unattractive, but she is also smart, sensitive and funny. The wife then manages to fall into an illicit affair because of her insecurity and poor self-image.

The role of the wife Deborah is cast so off the wall that she is an unbelievable character involved in what is otherwise a good film with some great messages. I give credit to Tea Leoni for taking on this despicable role, and proving that you could blow an air gun into her ear and feel a constant breeze on the other side.

The husband, who becomes a celebrity chef, comes across as vacant sometimes, but he also shows some sensitivity, understanding and compassion while his wife is totally self-absorbed. I would see this film again, and cringe even more at the character, activity and decision-making of the wife.

It is so great to see Adam Sandler in a more serious acting effort than another inane, stupid comedy like Punch-Drunk Love. Sandler may not be Hollywood’s answer to the next great actor, but he is capable of more than great comedy; we need to find out how much more.

Spanglish does not benefit at all from its title, which arises from a combination of Spanish and English (the housekeeper in the movie is initially reliant on her daughter to speak English because she cannot). Actually, there was a translator on the set because Paz Vega did not speak English and James L. Brooks (the director) did not speak Spanish.

Unfortunately, the title comes across as cute and sophomoric and tells us nothing about the nature of the movie or its message. The title, which could have helped build an audience for the film, does not induce any emotion or imagination. Spanglish picked up a couple of awards, but you will find no nominations or Oscars of significance here.

The film is written and directed by James L. Brooks, usually a prescription for a terrible film, but Brooks has broken the mold.

Brooks may be the first writer/director that I have not purposely panned because of a terrible product. He manages to tell a story worth seeing, and makes the characters seem more real and involved when it matters rather than wasting footage with another mindless sex scene for a ratings boost.

A lot of Americans just love sex, filth and violence. If you do not think so, watch a movie, turn on your television or play a video game (they make it because consumers almost demand it). Give Brooks credit for drawing the line and making the characters more important than any ratings they may generate.

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley

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