Screens » Screens Etc.

Broken English


It was only a matter of time before Zoe Cassavetes — daughterof director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands, and friend of Sofia Coppola’s — made a feature film. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned — the more female filmmakers out there, the better.

That said, however, the story Zoe has borne in Broken English would have been better served as a novel or short story. She has attempted to generate something small, lovely, psychological, and femme-centric — perhaps the kind of moment-in-time personal revolution that Lost in Translation captured so well — but English’s exposition is poky and often irrelevent to the film’s core action, which we don’t get a taste of until its second half.

Parker Posey stars as 35ish Nora Wilder, a successful V.I.P guest-services coordinator at a posh New York City hotel. Neither her drug nor alcohol dependencies are hid from us from the start, though her lovely apartment and enviable wardrobe long deter the viewer from imagining that Nora is in a rut that goes much deeper than a propensity for being unlucky in love.

We know she is unlucky in love because we witness two date scenes which are (superfluous, and) heartrendingly disappointing. During her sake-soaked dinner with actor Nick Gable (the always-appreciated Justin Theroux), Nora suggests that she’s essentially thrown her Sarah Lawrence degree en la basura, the first hint that her unhappiness is rooted in stagnation and personal failure as much as wedding-band deficiency.

But all hope is not lost, even if the means of its salvation are somewhat fantastic. A romantic, straw hat-wearing Frenchman, Julien (by far, the best name for a frog), enters and then leaves the picture abrubtly after connecting with Nora, which prompts her to abandon her comfort zone.

Then the film really starts.

Of course, the name “Nora” recalls Ibsen’s heroine from A Doll’s House, who walked out on her duties as wife and mother when those traditional roles failed to satisfy. English’s Nora, too, must confront modern conventional expectations imposed on her from within and without, and pursue the existence that makes her most content.

Broken English
Dir. & writ. Zoe Cassavetes; feat. Parker Posey, Gena Rowlands, Justin Theroux, Melvil Poupaud (PG-13)

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