Broken English (Magnolia, PG-13)

film_broken_smMaturing from her It Girl status of the mid-90s, Posey has transformed into a radiant actress, clearing herself of minor roles in shitty Meg Ryan or Cameron Diaz films and focusing now on films like Hal Harley's Fay Grim or this.

 

 

 

 

2007 appears to be a productive year for the offspring of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands. After his dreadful-to-the-nth-degree The Notebook, Nick Cassavetes returned…with an equally deplorable film, Alpha Dog. Now, his sister, Zoe, has released her first feature film, Broken English, with far more satisfying results. The film follows seemingly-directionless thirtysomething Nora Wilder (Parker Posey) through her fumbling New York City love life. Though Zoe Cassavetes, with her naturalistic dialogue and exposition, looks to have inherited more of her father's directorial skills than her brother, 2007 appears to be more of a successful year for Ms. Posey than it does the Cassavetes family. Maturing from her It Girl status of the mid-90s, Posey has transformed into a radiant actress, clearing herself of minor roles in shitty Meg Ryan or Cameron Diaz films (You've Got Mail and The Sweetest Thing, respectively) and focusing now on films like Hal Harley's Fay Grim or this. It's easy to see Broken English, which is named after the Marianne Faithfull song and album, as Party Girl 2, catching up with Party Girl's Mary a little over ten years later to find her just as hapless and happiness-free as she feared her life might become.

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With Broken English, it's Zoe's turn to use Mommy, as Nick mercilessly did in The Notebook. Here, Rowlands plays Nora's mother, the stereotypical mom of every single, past-25 woman in America. She, with her new husband (Peter Bogdanovich), raises issues of romance and happiness with her daughter, never truly reassuring Nora with lines like, "I can't imagine what it would be like to be a woman of today with all these choices." In Nora's life, no one truly seems to understand her plight, from her movie star fling (Justin Theroux) to her married best friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo). By chance, Nora meets Julien (Melvil Poupaud of Time to Leave), a French heartthrob, at a party she didn't want to attend and begins what seems to be the healthiest relationship she's had in years, aside from the occasional panic attack. All's well until Julien announces his departure from New York City back to France, sending Nora into a deeper spiral of anxiety and depression than before.

Although she directs Posey like one might imagine her father did with Rowlands, Cassavetes' style lends itself, disarmingly, to a variety of other sources. The easiest description I could come up with is Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Sunset by way of Sex and the City, only not as wise as the former or as charming as the latter. Cassavetes' depiction of the modern single woman, with the brilliant aide of Posey, is almost cringingly accurate (it's a fine counter-example that young people can use against old folk chalking up a dislike of Sideways to "you're not old enough to get it"). There comes a point, however, where Cassavetes' trek along the familiar allows for Posey to take over as a form of redemption. Broken English is truly Posey's film, which is nice for her, because we can put the blame on Cassavetes for the film's shortcomings in the originality department. | Joe Bowman

 

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