Broken English

2007, Movie, PG-13, 90 mins

Review

BROKEN ENGLISH
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For all its impeccable indie credibility, writer-director Zoe Cassavetes' bittersweet romance is little more than a hipster chick flick in which the same old smart women make the usual foolish choices.

Things haven't worked out the way Nora Wilder (Parker Posey) planned: Instead of working in the arts, she's a guest-relations coordinator at a chichi boutique hotel in Manhattan — a job she's extremely good at — and her love life is nonexistent. She drinks too much, has anxiety attacks and can count on her mother (Gena Rowlands) to point out that she's at an age where she can't afford to be picky — though Mom herself successfully found a new and perfectly presentable husband (Peter Bogdanovich) late in life. That Nora's best friend, Audrey Andrews (Drea de Matteo), just celebrated her fifth wedding anniversary is salt in the wound, and Mom is again there to point out that Nora should have married Mark (Tim Guinee) instead of introducing him to Audrey. On the verge of despair, Nora accepts a date with one of the hotel's clients, rising young actor Nick Gable (Justin Theroux); that he proves a cad comes as no surprise, and the fact that she knows she should have known better only fills Nora with self-loathing. A blind date with the apparently nice, normal Charlie (Josh Hamilton) works out equally badly. And then her luck changes: She meets handsome, ardent Frenchman Julian (Melvil Poupaud) at a coworker's party and sparks fly despite her best wet-blanket efforts to smother them. Then he goes home, though not before asking Nora to come with him, an offer she declines and then regrets as she slips back into the humdrum reality of her life. So when Audrey — who's almost as unhappy as Nora, suffocating within the cocoon of her "perfect" marriage — suggests they go to Paris to find him, Nora takes the biggest chance of her cautious life and says oui.

While the plot is overly familiar, Cassavetes — the daughter of Rowlands and the late John Cassavetes — gives her excellent cast plenty of breathing room. They repay her with remarkably subtle, nuanced performances, none more than Posey. Freed from the need to be the funny, jittery girl, she gives real bite to Nora's misery, which makes her inevitable happy ending so much the sweeter. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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