Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Broken English (2007 film)

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 11/29/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes, Broken English tells the story of a thirty-something woman living in Manhattan who tries to find love in all the wrong places. After meeting a Frenchman, her life changes as she looks back at her own love life and her own role. The film is an exploration of a young woman trying to find herself and deal with loneliness as well as the possibilities of true love. Starring Parker Posey, Melvil Poupaud, Drea de Matteo, Justin Theroux, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bogdonavich and Rowlands. Broken English is a sweet and charming film from Zoe Cassavetes.

Nora Wilder (Parker Posey) is a thirty-something hotel relations manager living in New York City. While her best friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo) is happily married to Mark (Tim Guinee), Nora however still hasn't had a long-lasting relationship as her mother Vivien (Gena Rowlands) and step-father Irving (Peter Bogdonavich) are worried. Then one day while working at her hotel, she meets an actor named Nick Gabel (Justin Theroux) who asked her out on a date. She says yes but immediately, it becomes another first date that ends with her sleeping with a man and then, that is it with nothing continuing. Even after she learns that he has a girlfriend. When her mother sets her up to date Charlie (Justin Hamilton), the son of her mother's friend, it starts off well until his ex-girlfriend Jennifer (Caitlin Keats) showed up and the date becomes a disaster.

Finally deciding to swear off all of these bad relationships and one-night stands, Nora reluctantly attends the party of her of workers at the hotel named Glen (Michael Panes). There, she meets a charming Frenchman named Julien (Melvil Poupaud) who flirts with her while not wanting to leave her side. The shy, despondent Nora is amazed by the quirky, charming Julien who is more upbeat than her where for the next three days, they enjoy a long date that broke all of the rules. Though an encounter with an ex-boyfriend occurred, it nearly shatters this relationship that starts to build things up as Julien has to return to Paris since he's only in New York City to work on a film. On their final day, he leaves her his number as she returns to her depressed state of mind. While starting to miss Julien, Audrey's marriage is starting to crumble with Mark's work as a film director has become busy.

Deciding to go to Paris to send packages to a couple of friends of Nora's mother, Nora and Audrey take the Paris trip as an escape from their problems. Nora hopes to find Julien while Audrey realizes her crumbling marriage after a lunch with a man (Thierry Hancisse) who was waiting for one of the packages. The two ponder their own roles as Nora decides to look at Paris for herself while continuing her desperate search for Julien.

While the film is essentially a romantic comedy on some aspects, it's really a fresh take on the genre since it's based from the perspective of a woman. Writer/director Zoe Cassavetes really goes for study of this woman whose life is at a turning point while realizing her own failures into relationship until she meets this charming Frenchman. While some audiences might compare this to Sex & the City, the HBO TV series, it lacks the show's humor and charm where Cassavetes instead just goes for a study of romance and loneliness. While the story and character development is strong, it does have a few flaws where it starts off a bit slow and does lack a bit of originality. Particularly the ending that is similar to an ending from another romantic film a few years ago.

Still, Cassavetes observant direction that very stylized works to convey the story while the humor is subtle. The film that is shot both on location in NYC and Paris show the film's different atmospheres and its similarities. Cassavetes goes for that improvisational, verite style that her father's made famous for with some great compositions and scenery of both cities. Cassavetes uses close-ups and movements to convey what the characters are going through and such without any kind of overly-dramatic style that would've ruined the film. Overall, Cassavetes creates a charming, witty little romantic comedy that has style and passion.

Cinematographer John Pirozzi does some fantastic work with the film's exterior shots while the interiors are wonderful to convey the sense of intimacy that Nora and Julien are in during their dates and such. Editor Andrew Weisblum does some fine, cutting style that is more in tradition with French New Wave style that is energetic while not being too fast as it helps the film's pacing for the second and third act. Production designer Happy Massee and art director Peter Zumba does a great look of posh New York City as well as upper-middle class NYC residents with its beds, furniture, and such including the stuff in Paris. Costume designer Stacey Battat costumes are wonderfully stylish with vintage clothing, Fedora hats, and such to convey the world that is New York and Paris. Sound editor Stephen Barden does excellent work in creating the differing atmospheres of both NYC and Paris where the former is a bit chaotic that contrasts with the latter's calmness.

The music by Scratch Massive is very electronic-driven with old-school synthesizers to convey the world of both NYC and Paris in all of its artistry. The soundtrack also includes cuts by Pharcyde and Scratch Massive doing a cover of Marianne Faithful's classic song Broken English from that seminal 1979 of the same name.

The film's casting is wonderful with notable small appearances from Dana Ivey as a friend of Vivien, Michael Panes, Caitlin Keats, Bernadette Lafont as a woman Nora meets in Paris, Thierry Hancisse, Tim Guinee Josh Hamilton, and iconic director Peter Bogdonavich in small, memorable performances. Justin Theroux is great as Nick Gable, an actor who has charms and such while is a bit of an egomaniac as he's a caricature of a lot of actors. Gena Rowlands is excellent as Nora's mother Vivien who ponders what is going on with today's women while trying to help Nora find love in times that she thinks is much tougher. Drea de Matteo is great as Audrey, Nora's best friend who is trying to deal with her crumbling marriage while looking for some escape from her problems in Paris.

Melvil Poupaud is brilliant as Julien, the quirky, charming good man who is passionate about life while trying to help Nora get out of her funk as he guides her into something more lively. Poupaud's performance is fun to watch as he and Posey have great chemistry while speaking English very well as the French actor is still a marvel to watch following his recent appearance in Francois Ozon's 2005 film Time to Leave. Parker Posey is radiant as Nora Wilder. The iconic indie actress definitely gives a performance that reminds her fans of her brilliance in mixing drama as well as her sharp humor that is quintessential Posey. Posey not only brings sympathy to a woman that probably some 30-year old women could relate to while developing from this melancholic person to a woman wanting to break out of her funk. It's Posey at her finest.

Broken English is a fantastic film from film Zoe Cassavetes that features incredible performances from performances of Parker Posey and Melvil Poupaud. Fans of romantic comedies will find something refreshing to this gem while fans of Parker Posey will no doubt enjoy Posey in one of her finest performances. In the end, Broken English is a superb film from Zoe Cassavetes.

© thevoid99 2014


Alex Withrow said...

Great review man. This is definitely my favorite Posey performance. I just adore Nola Wilder. And its use of M83's “I Guess I’m Floating" is perfect.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. It's a very underrated film that I think should be seen more often.

ruth said...

Aaah I've been wanting to see this for ages, now I have to see this real soon! I can see Parker Posey fitting this role well, I agree she's quite underrated.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-It's one of these films where it will pass by you but if you manage to see it. You'll be sucked into it.

Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! I really need to see this for Posey. She's a very underrated actress, IMO.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Thank you. It's definitely worth recommending as I think it showcases how good Posey is as well as the fact that there's another talented Cassavetes in Zoe.