Starring Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, Téa Leoni, Cloris Leachman, Sarah Steele, Aimee Garcia, Thomas Haden Church
Messy. Stirring. Vivid.
Painfully awkward at times, rapturous at others, Spanglish stars Paz Vega as a single mother, Fleur, who moves to California with her young daughter to find a better life. After years of struggling, she finally ventures outside of California’s tight-knit Mexican community and finds employment with the dysfunctional, wealthy Clasky family led by John (Sandler), a chef, and his neurotic wife, Deborah (Leoni). Evoking Ethan Frome to a degree, the kind but unhappy John and Fleur develop feelings for one another as Deborah pursues her own affair. It’s a messy state of affairs for these characters and the film doesn’t attempt to tidy them up. I think it’s a gift and a curse. On the one hand, Spanglish isn’t completely satisfying, but on the other, it’s a unique, thoughtful, engaging film with characters I care about. Sandler has shown, in this and other films, that he is capable of strong work, and Vega gives a terrific performance in the lead. James L. Brooks is one of the best comedy writers of the past few decades, and though this doesn’t measure up to his best, he’s still great.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-