Spanglish

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Cecilia Suarez

Director: James L Brooks

Flor (Paz Vega) has just moved to America from Mexico with her little daughter Cristina (Victoria Luna). She soon manages to get two jobs and everything seems to be fine until she starts to worry about leaving her daughter alone at night, so she decides that she needs one job to do during the day that will pay her either the same amount that she is currently making or more. Despite the fact that she doesn’t speak a word of English she luckily gets a job as a housekeeper for a well-off American family headed by John Clasky (Adam Sandler), his wife Deborah (Tea Leoni), their two children Bernice (Sarah Steele) and Georgie (Ian Hyland) and Deborah’s mum Evelyn (Cloris Leachman).

Initially Flor makes a point of getting personal with the family but she finds herself getting drawn into their tumultuous lifestyle. The battle to keep her private life away from her work life is eventually lost by Flor when Deborah insists that she stay with them over summer and so she is forced to bring Cristina along with her too.

Evelyn quickly latches onto Cristina and starts buying her gifts without Flor’s approval. This really irritates her immensely and on the verge of quitting her job she finds herself opening up to her employer, John Clasky. Meanwhile John finds solace in Flor’s company as his wife seems to be distant to him. However with Evelyn’s continuous disregard for Flor’s pleas not to take Cristina out all the time and spoil her she is forced to quit the job. John offers to drive her home but before she leaves Flor agrees to have a drink with John and this is when their true feelings for each other are finally revealed.

James L Brooks, yes the same guy behind THE SIMPSONS and AS GOOD AS IT GETS to name but a few, directs this warm comedy drama in a very different way from the other films he has done. This one is neither very dramatic nor very funny merely average, which is still good but just not excellent. It could have benefited from more character development and would have worked better if more depth had been given to the American characters. Also the first quarter of the film where we see Flor and her young daughter Cristina going to America seems like a totally different film to the rest. Basically the storyline switches from mother/daughter starting a new life together to a housekeeper entering a troubled family home and teaching them all a thing or two about the Mexican way of life. Hans Zimmer adds some zest to the feeling of the film and personality to the characters with a wonderful South American music based soundtrack.

Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni headline the movie but it belongs to Paz Vega. She gives a heartfelt performance as the stubborn mother who lives and breathes for her daughter. She easily steals every scene she is in. Another surprise is that most of the laughs in the film are not generated by Adam Sandler but by veteran actress Cloris Leachman as the semi alcoholic mother/mother-in-law, she’s a hoot.

This isn’t of the same Oscar calibre that AS GOOD AS IT GETS was but it is a pleasantly involving and entertaining movie that should leave you feeling warmly satisfied.

3 out of 6 stars

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