Broken English: fixing the flaws in romantic comedies

Categories: Arts

Broken English

Most romantic comedies are abysmally trite. They either show the cute, quirky blonde fumbling along until she meets Mr. Dashing and it all works out in the end, or they show the cute, quirky blonde fumbling … well, actually most of them seem to work things out seamlessly by the end, in that hunky dory Kate Hudson-Drew Barrymore sorta way. Rarely is there a movie about sex and the single gal that’s as awkward and funny and just plain real as Broken English (although Me and You and Everyone We Know comes in as a close second).

Broken English stars Parker Posey as an unattached thirty-something surrounded by married couples on one side and actor playboys on the other. She gets too drunk sometimes and says painfully dumb things. She occasionally gets lonely at parties. She has crippling anxiety sabotaging her self-esteem. She cries during lunch with her mom about her dating desperation. And she’s funny as hell, even when she’s just trying her best to force interest in an egotistical slimeball during a date at a sushi joint. In short, she’s a culmination of a lot of different archetypes of single ladies without exaggerating any of them or smoothing over the flaws and scars with some sorta heavy Sex and the City airbrushing.

The film was directed by John Cassavetes’ daughter Zoe (this is her writing/directing debut) and also stars Drea De Matteo as Audrey, Posey’s tough broad pal with the unhappy marriage. It was filmed in a short 20 days, and sometimes that shows, as the lines and the acting blunder a bit -- but actually that sort of honesty makes the movie even more endearing. Nothing is simple or easy here, from the humor to the struggle Nora has both in meeting men and keeping them around. Even when Nora does stumble into a brief affair with a French man named Julien (Melvin Poupaud), you’re unsure how it’s all gonna come together (or come apart) in the end.

The people Nora bumps into along the way all try and offer her advice, from her mother to Audrey to a fortune teller to an older French man who attempts to explain the difference between people who couple up because they’re scared of being alone and those to hold out for “something magical.” But Broken English refrains from offering a morality play or quick answers, instead showing a very entertaining yet earnest and even hopeful look at the emotional landmines in the age old dilemma of finding someone to love. Along with The Lives of Others, it's one of my favorite films of 2007. (Broken English is playing now at Embarcadero Cinemas) --Jennifer Maerz

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