Spanglish

Flor (Paz Vega) is a single mother, a Mexican who has lived in LA for years with a knowledge of English as minimal as her contact with English-speaking Angelenos. This changes slightly when a pal recommends her for a job cleaning the house of neurotic designer Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni) and her successful chef husband John (Adam Sandler). The wealthy, welcoming couple are, it’s soon clear, having problems of their own – which, apart from the pleasures and pitfalls of parenthood, is about all they have in common with their pretty, proud and fiercely private employee…
A smile, a tear, a smile… Ever since ‘Terms of Endearment’ and ‘Taxi’, James L Brooks has specialised in ‘quality’ comedy-drama – smartly written, superior sitcom stuff that aims to treat, in an adult, intelligent, sensitive way, serious issues. Here he touches on economic disparity, class divisions, social integration, parenting, marital conflict, communication skills, culinary fame and so forth, all in a characteristically well-meaning but inadequate way. My colleague Jessica Winter has rightly written elsewhere of Brooks’ regrettable tendency to portray his women as problematically volatile – Deborah, especially, is quite monstrous – but actually Sandler’s all-round nice guy is equally implausible in many respects. It’s less a matter of poor casting than of performers made to act up between the admittedly nifty one-liners; this is Hollywood liberal humanism as muted join-the-dots melodrama, all carefully calculated colouring, broad outlines, and no room for fruitful digression. Other examples of Brooks’ TV mindset: drab direction, gently probing but painless ethical inquiry, and a reassuring insistence that life and people (viewers included, naturally) are good.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday February 25 2005
Duration: 130 mins

Cast and crew

Director: James L Brooks
Cast: Adam Sandler
Téa Leoni
Paz Vega
Cloris Leachman
Aimee Garcia
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