Broken English is writer/director Zoe Cassavetes’ film debut starring Parker Posey as Nora Wilder, a thirty-something, upper middle class female stuck in a husband-finding funk. I recently picked up the Broken English DVD, released August 21, 2007, and found it to be quite a rewarding pick, especially for any female who has learned that you have to find love and happiness within yourself before you can share this with a partner. Nora Wilder's character left me giggling as she became downright confused, frustrated, and full of wiggles as she goes through and tackles this difficult life lesson.
Nora Wilder has a life full of just about everything she could ever need. She’s a graduate of Sarah Lawrence, a single female living on her own in a downtown Manhattan apartment. She has long-time friends and family relatively close and a solid career in charge of guest services at a posh New York hotel. All in all, it appears Nora has her ducks waddling in a nice, straight row.
On the flip-side of this coin though, we learn that there is a darker side to Nora's ducky world. She has spent eight years working in guest services, not because she enjoys this position, but basically for her lack of venturing to do anything else with her career. She’s feeling pressure from her mother, Vivien (Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes’ real-life mother), to find the “right” man, and of course, Mom has planned the perfect route to make this happen for her daughter.
Nora long ago reached the level where her lack of success on the dating scene eroded her self confidence and her sense of security began to splinter. Self-pity took over Nora’s life and the audience begins to feel she’s close to being incapable of independently living on her own.
Nora’s loneliness and her quest to overcome the stigmas of female singlehood are further spurred forward by the five-year “perfect marriage” of her best friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos), as well as Nora’s own apathy regarding the dating grind, as she cranks through dates faster than VIPs can check into the hotel.
Though I found the first part of this film slow and drawn out to tell the story of Nora’s two-sided coin, I did find myself afterwards rooting for her and almost waved at my screen to get her attention and say, “Girlfriend, you need to get out of this rut!”
Nora spent too many mornings waking up in a lonely, wine-induced stupor on her sofa. She has become closed off, desperate, and obviously tired of the magical man chase. Finding a loveable mate seems to be out of the question; the entire search thus far has left her with panic attacks, depression, and a bottle of Valium.
Just when Nora’s thoughts change to potentially settling for a bozo-boy with the right “image,” foregoing finding love simply to take the weight of singleness off her shoulders, a chain-smoking, romantic Frenchman, Julien (Melvin Poupaud), enters the film and shortly afterwards, Nora’s life. The ensuing days are full of fun, laughs, and adventures, which leads Nora to wrestling with the word "no". "No, this can’t happen… somewhere, somehow, I’m going to screw this up."
Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the middle of pickle. If not, all it takes is Broken English to see the ifs, ands, buts, and doubts of a self-conscious woman. Nora constantly wrestles with these in this relationship, making life more complicated than it really needs to be. Parker Posey turns in an outstanding performance while Nora tosses and turns questions of love, romance, commitment, her own self-identity and what she wants truly wants in her life.
In the midst of Broken English’s light tale of love’s longing and laughs, we experience Nora finding out who she is, what she truly wants, and where she wants to be in her life. We hang there with her during the film not really knowing what is to happen, only feeling her angst, disappointments, wonder, and excitement as she traverses through these hard lesson and grows from them.
For this reason, Broken English is more than the average romantic comedy. It is more than a cliché’ of girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, etc. The story line, the performance of Parker Posey, and Nora's journey of self-discovery make this a film that I highly recommend. Afterwards, I’m sure you’ll agree there was no room for disappointment and Broken English is a ducky film.
Rating: PG-13; Original language: English, French; Subtitled in: Spanish; Running time: 98 minutes.