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4 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Broken English (2007)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. "Parker & Melvil Go Gamboling"
4 stars

Parker Posey is one of those rare performers who can elevate a mediocre film into a good one and a good one into a great one simply by the sheer force of her personality. Her latest film, the romantic dramedy “Broken English,” is an example of the former–a not especially unique or distinguished low-budget indie film that she personally infuses with so much quirky energy and spirit that it winds up being worth watching almost in spite of itself.

In the film, Posey plays Nora Wilder, a neurotic thirtysomething New Yorker who is getting to that point in life where all of her friends are married and having families while she is stuck with a nowhere job as a hotel concierge, no social life to speak of and an overbearing mother (Gena Rowlands) who never ceases to remind her about her lack of a fulfilling professional and personal life. After a fling with a vapid actor (Justin Theroux) ends badly, she essentially decides to give up on romance completely. It is at this point, of course, that she meets Julien (Melvil Poupard), a happy-go-lucky Frenchman who is immediately attracted to her. Of course, she tries to brush him off but he is both smitten and persistent and when he doesn’t freak out when Nora has a panic attack in the middle of a sort-of date, she finally gives in to his advances.

After a few days of bliss, however, the hammer falls down and Julien reveals that he has to return to Paris to a crestfallen Nora. However, this doesn’t appear to be a dodge on his part–not only does he seem genuinely regretful over this turn of events, he asks her to come back to France with him. Nora declines–she can’t possibly leave her job and jet off to another country just like that–and he leaves without her. After a few days of moping around that culminate in her quitting her job and a fateful encounter with a psychic, she realizes that she should have taken a chance by going to Paris with him. With nothing more than Julien’s phone number in her hand (for a while, at least) and best friend Audrey (Drea De Matteo), whose own seemingly perfect marriage appears to be crumbling, in tow, Nora leaves her comfort zone and heads for Paris.

“Broken English” was written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes but that doesn’t mean that it is as insufferable as the works of father John (whose films, as heretical as it may be to say, I have always found to mostly be pretentious bores enlivened only by the performances) or brother Nick (whose “Alpha Dog” is still one of the worst films to emerge in 2007 to date). It is low-key, likable without being cloying and filled with a bunch of nice performances (Theroux is quite amusing as the sleazo actor and De Matteo’s work may surprise those who know her only from “The Sopranos”) but while I liked the cheerfully meandering tone of the first half, it starts to drag in the second once the mechanics of the plot (will Nora find Julien or not?) begin to take hold of the proceedings. Cassavetes also begins to clutter her story with needless distractions (such as the circumstances surrounding Nora and Audrey traveling to Paris, a strange encounter Nora has with a woman she may or may not be related to and Audrey’s infidelity with a man she meets in France) that bog down the proceedings at precisely the point when things should be perking up. And while I wouldn’t dare to reveal the ending, I will say that it will seem awfully familiar to anyone who saw another film about the burgeoning romance between a Parisian and an American from a couple of years ago, right down to the virtually identical final lines of dialogue.

And yet, I found myself more or less willing to overlook these flaws and enjoy “Broken English” for the most part and that is almost entirely due to the wonderful and often surprising Parker Posey performance. Granted, the idea of her playing a neurotic and high-strung dame from New York may not sound like the casting people were exactly thinking outside the box but this isn’t the hilariously brittle Posey that we might be expecting to see. She nails the neurotic behavior of Nora for prime comedic effect but she also gives Nora a vulnerability that makes her far more likable and sympathetic than she might seem to be at first glance–even as the story itself grows less and less interesting, she keeps us invested in it enough so that we find ourselves genuinely rooting for her character to finally find happiness. In the end, “Broken English” as a whole may not be worth a full-price admission (but since this is one of those HDNet enterprises that is debuting more-or-less simultaneously in theaters, on cable and on DVD, the multiplex isn’t your only option) but if you are either a confirmed Parker Posey fanatic or are in a more forgiving mood than usual, you may well find yourself succumbing to its modest charms.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15723&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/20/07 00:20:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival For more in the 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2007 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/17/07 William Goss Posey's at her most relaxed in otherwise middling rom-com. 3 stars
9/06/07 Cary Kenney Awesome cast, and original score. Terrific film. 5 stars
8/25/07 Brandon Wright Parker Posey at her best! The music is amazing too! 5 stars
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