I sat down to watch Broken English not expecting too much. The storyline has been done before: the 30-something single woman living in New York struggling with men. But Parker Posey, who will always stick in my head as Mary from Party Girl (1995) brings vulnerability, humor, and realism to a role that has been done before but never this good.
Parker Posey plays Nora Wilder in what is being called "a startling mature and nuanced performance." The opening scene of the movie shows Nora applying lipstick, picking the perfect dress, and fighting an internal battle over her anxiety medication. We see a close-up of her pulling on her sandals and the lost lonely look in her brown eyes. I was instantly hooked.
Nora works in an elegant downtown hotel dealing with the VIPs who come through. She is competent and in control when she meets an actor who is staying in the hotel. She unbends enough to accept a date and as a result gets burned. But this experience leads her to meet the very charming and handsome Julien, a Frenchman working on a movie in New York for a short time.
Julien, played by Melvil Poupaud, is sensitive, with a passion for life and the world around him though he is recovering from a failed relationship. They spend a few blissful days together and while Julien might not understand Nora completely there is an easy companionship between the two, a chemistry that is magnetic. When he returns to France Nora is devastated; the scene where they say good-bye is heart-wrenching, the emotion jumps off the screen at you.
Nora decides she must got to France to find Julien. With her best friend Audrey (Drea De Matteo) in tow, she searches Paris up and down for any sign of him. But as the days pass Nora starts to look at her life differently; she begins to see herself as someone else, someone unafraid of being alone.
And just as Nora has resigned herself to not finding Julian, on her way to the airport to return to New York, she finds him. This last scene is beautiful. I was glued to the screen as the final moments played out and when the credits rolled I let out a sigh. Simply beautiful.
Broken English, written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes, is funny but it is not the slapstick humor of some romantic comedies. The humor here is real, genuine, everyday funny; a Frenchman mispronouncing a word or Nora and her friend Audrey’s conversations. But while there are bright jewels there are dark here as well. Nora’s struggle with her anxiety is sad to watch, hard to understand if you have never experienced a panic attack, and heart-wrenching if you have.
I can not recommend Broken English highly enough. It was as close to perfect as any movie I have watched in the last few years.