- Spanglish (film)
Infobox Film | name = Spanglish
caption = A comedy with a language all its own.
James L. Brooks
James L. Brooks
James L. Brooks
Paz Vega Adam Sandler Téa Leoni Cloris Leachman Thomas Haden Church
December 17, 2004
runtime = 131 min.
language = English
budget = $80,000,000
imdb_id = 0371246
"Spanglish" is a 2004 American
filmwritten and directed by James L. Brooks, and starring Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega, and Cloris Leachman. Hans Zimmerwas nominated for a Golden Globe Awardfor Best Original Score. It was released in other countries over the first several months of 2005. It was released in the United States on December 17, 2004 by Columbia Pictures.
The taglines for this movie were: "Every family has a hero." and "A comedy with a language all its own."
The movie opens showing a Princeton University admissions board reviewing freshman applications and reading the essays that accompany them. The question for the essay is, Who has been the most influential person in your life? Most are met with unremarkable answers and uninteresting explanations, but one essay stands out: that of Cristina Moreno (Shelbie Bruce), who cites her mother, Flor (Paz Vega, ironically from
Seville, Spain, not Mexico), as the most influential person in her life. Cristina proceeds to explain, and the movie begins to unfold.
Flor Moreno, a single mother from Mexico, has crossed the border into the United States with her young daughter Cristina, in search of a better life after being abandoned by her husband. Flor’s cousin, already in the States, helps her find an apartment and two low-paying jobs. Cristina attends school and over time becomes fluent in the English language. Flor, on the other hand, who is nervous about living in a foreign country in which most of its people speak an alien language, has chosen to seclude herself in the Hispanic community as she lacks the confidence to break the language barrier. As a result, she continues to conduct her entire American life in Spanish.
Eventually, however, it becomes clear that Flor cannot simply lock herself and Cristina in their own world forever, and so she begins to look for a single job that can provide them with more income. Again, with the help of her cousin as an interpreter, Flor finds a high-paying position as housekeeper in Los Angeles. She finds herself working in the home of the well-to-do Clasky family, which is composed of a successful chef named John (Adam Sandler), his rather stressed-out and unemployed, wife, Deborah (Tea Leoni), their two children Bernice (Sarah Steele) and Georgie (Ian Hyland), and Deborah's mother, retired singer Evelyn Wright (Cloris Leachman). John enjoys his job and wants to maintain its three-star status, rather than moving up to four-star status. While he has the talent for this, he laments that the fame would take away from family activities. Alternately, Deborah is highly ambitious, though uncertain of how to focus this energy after dutifully quitting her job for the family. This, consequently, is the source of friction with Bernice who shares her father's easygoing nature.
Immediately Flor is welcomed into the Clasky household. She thinks she is filling the motherly void that she feels Deborah is failing to provide to Bernice and Georgie. Her welcoming presence enlightens Evelyn, and her striking good looks and understanding demeanor make her very attractive to John. Deborah, however, sees Flor as a housekeeper there to do her job around the house. Flor feels she is disregarding her emotions. In addition, Cristina and Deborah begin to connect to everyone's chagrin; Cristina is infatuated with Deborah's attention to glamour, fashion, and money, while Deborah fawns over Cristina's wit, enthusiasm, and ambition. Deborah and Christina begin to treat the other as idealized versions of mother and daughter, their bonding starts cracking the fragile family politics. Cristina appears taken with the family, but Flor struggles to deal with the extremely drippy personalities that all the members of the Clasky family except Evelyn have.
Though the Claskys and Flor cannot understand one another because of the language barrier, Flor tries to help out around the house as best she can, even helping Bernice and Georgie during Deborah’s frenetic, outbursts. Her job as a housekeeper begins to transform into a live-out domestic work position. These difficulties are exacerbated by the necessity of using Cristina for most of the work in translating between her mother and the rest of the household, and she becomes increasingly resentful of this position while subtly manipulating conversations to her advantage.
Flor learns that as rich as the Claskys are, they have issues that are equal to, if not worse than, her own. She learns that John is an emotional man (a far cry from the tough, macho Latino men she is accustomed to). To make matters worse, Deborah and John’s marriage is on the rocks. She manages to keep herself aloof from the family’s drama, however this changes when the family decides to rent a summer beach house, requiring Flor to move in with them.
To move in with the Claskys is a big decision for Flor. She wants to keep her independence from the family, however she is in desperate need of the money. Moreover, Flor is proud of her Mexican roots, and does not wish to forget her heritage or the values instilled in her and is determined to instill a Mexican identity in her daughter at any cost, regardless of the fact that Cristina has already spent most of her childhood in the USA. Wishing for her daughter to be as proud of her roots as she is, she has a hard time taking Christina from the world she knows, and exposing her to the white, upper-class, American life. Flor and Cristina’s relationship is put to the test when Flor reluctantly agrees to accept the live-in domestic position, requiring her to take Cristina with her.
The Claskys immediately take to Cristina and treat her like their own. While the children treat her like a sibling and John with good-natured cheer, Deborah butters Cristina up and often heaps flattery on her at the expense of her own daughter, whom she has trouble getting through to. Cristina marvels at all that the Claskys have, while Flor watches, forcing herself to be happy for her daughter, but watchful of the intrusion into her personal sphere and worried about the outgoing, highly social, impressionable Cristina being taken by Deborah's flattery, glamorous appearance, charm, and wealth.
The real problems begin to surface when Deborah begins to poach on Flor's maternal rights. First, Deborah takes Cristina on a shopping trip without Flor’s permission, and hurts Bernice’s feeling while doing so. John proceeds to give Cristina a large sum of money for sea glass she found on the beach (though as John and Cristina explain, she honestly worked for it). Through Cristina’s interpreting, for the first time Flor expresses her discontent with the situation. John is contrite about his error and makes amends to Flor while Deborah is not and only comes up with lame excuses for her behavior, while criticizing Flor.
After recognizing the difficulty in expressing herself to the Claskys verbally, Flor finally decides to learn English to better express herself and to better understand her employers, for Deborah makes minimal effort to understand her. John tries, but does not speak Spanish very well, and Deborah is often jealous and resentful of John treating Flor like the person that she is. Flor and John manage to clear the air when she puts her English lessons to the test and confronts him about one of Deborah's indiscretions with Cristina. After establishing some ground rules and apologies, the two begin opening up to each other about their frustrations. Flor's hitherto hidden emotions take John by surprise, but the two establish themselves as equals and the two form an immediate respect for the other's parenting style. As the conversation draws to a close, John gratefully says that it was "nice to meet you," feeling that the conversation marked their first real connection.
In the interim, Deborah manipulates her social connections to get Cristina a scholarship to a very expensive private school, the same school Bernice attends. When Cristina learns this, she is delighted, but Flor is appalled, though Deborah managed to hide the fact that the US$20,000 scholarship was her doing.
When Deborah allows Cristina to sleep over with her friends rather than attending a family affair with her mother, as Cristina had originally promised, Flor decides she has had enough and leaves to get her daughter immediately.
Meanwhile, John goes home after work that night to have Deborah reveal that she has been having an affair and is sleeping with their real estate agent. An emotionally shattered John trudges out of the house where he meets Flor, who intended to go to the Clasky household to pick up Cristina and quit her job. The two end up getting into a car and head to John’s restaurant, and it proves an ultimate test for both when they are tempted to engage in an affair. Flor refuses with great difficulty, but not before telling John she loves him. John also expresses his feelings for Flor. Meanwhile, Evelyn is at the house trying to support her daughter in her time of need, being brutally honest in the process. After John and Deborah have a weak "reconciliation," Flor arrives to take Cristina, and after a tearful farewell, Cristina asks her mother if she could stay with the Claskys longer. Flor tells Cristina no, and continues to say that she cannot go to the private school anymore. In turn; Cristina becomes extremely angry with her mother and yells at her on the way to the bus stop. After a moment of silence, Flor tearfully asks Cristina a question that will define the rest of her life: "Is what you want for yourself to become something very different than me?" This line is a microcosm of Flor's attitudes throughout much of the film i.e. her realisation that Cristina is developing an identity that is not entirely Mexican and her consequent resentment.
Cristina responds by silently boarding the bus with her mother. She initially sits away from Flor, then comes close to her mother again and ends up embracing her for the duration of their ride. As this scene plays, Cristina as an adult narrates, acknowledging that “all she is today” rests on the simple fact that she is her mother’s daughter.
Paz Vega.... Flor Moreno
Adam Sandler.... John Clasky
Téa Leoni.... Deborah Clasky
Cloris Leachman.... Evelyn Wright
Shelbie Bruce.... Cristina Moreno, age 12
Sarah Steele.... Bernice "Bernie" Clasky
Ian Hyland II.... George "Georgie" Clasky
Victoria Luna.... Cristina Moreno, age 6
Cecilia Suárez.... Monica
Aimee Garcia.... Narrator (Adult Cristina Moreno)
Critical opinion remains somewhat mixed (52% at
RottenTomatoes.com). Its proponents champion the film as a moving portrayal of the difficulty of communication across cultural boundaries. However, its detractors describe it as "uneven," "awkward," and "mean-spirited."
Premio Juventud Golden Globe Award
This film grossed $55,041,367 worldwide, significantly less than the $80 million production budget.
* [http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/spanglish/ Official "Spanglish" Website]
* [http://www.infocusmag.com/05February/brooksuncut.htm In Focus interview with James L. Brooks]
* [http://members.cox.net/jjschnebel/SpangSand.html How To Make The World's Greatest Sandwich - Spanglish BLT]
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