Spanglish

Kind of Recommended. James Brooks is a brilliant dramedy director. I recommend his stuff because regardless of his lack of a strong moral worldview, he does try to address morals and the emotional reality of life and he makes you think. Lots of laughs here and touching human moments that make it rather good storytelling. This story about a Spanish speaking woman hired by a rich family and how she brings light and life into their lives is very well written with some GREAT lines and great characters, very true to life, and funny moments all wrapped in together. I must say, Adam Sandler is GREAT when he is not in an Adam Sandler movie. He can really be a great understated actor. I thought he was great in Punch Drunk Love as well. Anyway, this movie is about a lot of things. But one of the themes is how the heart of our humanity lies not in perfection and success and excellence, which tends to destroy and dehumanize, but in loving one another with all our faults and messy weaknesses. So you have a wife, played a bit too over the top by Tea Leoni, who is neurotically obsessed with perfection and excellence, while Adam is the husband/father who is a chef but who is the opposite. He hates perfection precisely because it does destroy the fun of life. He doesn’t want his restaurant to be reviewed with too high a score because that happened before in New York and the “heart went out of it all” when it happened. He just wants a pleasing loving environment. Well, these opposites cause the comedy and pathos in the film. A great mom character by Cloris Leachman, a has-been singer who wasn’t really famous anyway but admits in the film, “I loved everybody, that’s what’s killing me.” And to the Spanish maid, “I lived for myself, you live yours for your daughter, none of it works.” Great lines from her, like to Tea, “Lately, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.” Some very touching and moving relationship issues with Leoni’s daughter, who is a little chubby and suffers implied rejection from her mother from this. Very poignant thing about love and acceptance without perfection. So, back to the main story. The father, played by Sandler, of course is pushed into struggling with a growing interest in the beautiful Spanish Maid played by Paz Vega. I don’t have a problem with having this in the story, but it seemed to be a dominant focus. That sexual tension becomes the driving force of the movie rather than a factor that drives him to redemption back to his marriage, like in Shall We Dance?, which is superior in this sense. My big complaint is that Brooks fancies himself a “realist” in leaving the dominant relationship between Sandler and Leoni up in the air at the end rather than bringing redemption or resolution like in Shall We Dance? Sure, some good things happen. Leoni confesses adultery and tries to fix it, and Sandler gets to the moment where he wants to sleep with the maid but in her wisdom she says, “There are some mistakes you cannot make when you have children.” They don’t do it. Some great stuff here, but I felt that Brooks lingered too long on that “connection” between Sandler and Vega, trying to milk some good out of it as if it’s just another “just married to the wrong person” kind of thing. Like maybe we can get that human connection from each other even if we “can’t have sex.” Rather than, No, I need to rekindle my marriage rather than wallow in fantasy (again, like in Shall We Dance?). And the Maid should NOT have told him she loved him and walked away. That was very irresponsible. It was not the right thing to do. And don’t attack me with “that’s reality. Sometimes marriages don’t get back together etc.” Because movies ARE NOT REALITY. They are worldviews to teach about how we should act in our reality. It’s okay if someone doesn’t fix their marriage. But what’s not okay is for the hero to not make a defining choice of redemption. THAT is unsatisfying. I want values affirmed, I don’t want nihilism affirmed. If he loses his marriage because he makes the right choice, fine. Just so long as the hero makes the right moral choice. DOING THE RIGHT THING is what it is all about. And another annoying thing was that Sandler was made to be the good guy, but he really wasn’t in my mind. His fault was just as wrong as the others, but it was never resolved. His fault was that he was TOO easygoing. Or rather, that his own desire of avoiding perfection was itself a flaw of him wanting to avoid some kind of responsibility like growing up. But this was not developed. He says school is supposed to make his daughter feel good about herself. And this is shown as positive. Yes, school should not make you feel BAD, as in attacking you. But the purpose of education is the same as maturity: To grow. And growth does not come without pain. The problem with educational philosophy in this country is precisely that they have jettisoned excellence or growth and replaced it with self-esteem, which has created an entire class of stupid young people who feel good about themselves. Well, I guess that makes them better slaves of the State, which is the purpose of secular indoctrination anyway, which is the ultimate goal. Back to the movie. My point is that this nice guy laizzes faire calmness should have been a flaw that the hero had to overcome, but it was not. I reckon the major theme was focused around the main character, which was the daughter of the Spanish Maid. And her problem was that mom was so overprotective of her because she wanted her to maintain her Mexican heritage. SO when the little girl gets a scholarship to a private school and becomes the substitute darling daughter of Leoni, the Maid loses control and her daughter becomes TOO American. She still ends up taking her daughter out of private school. But the daughter concludes in an admissions application to Princeton that If they don’t pick her, that won’t hurt her. Because “Your decision will not define me. My identity rests on one fact. I am my mother’s daughter.” So the main character learns to accept becoming like her mom. Well, this seemed rather weak to me. I think that the answer is really more in between, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding where it concludes “Don’t let your past control you, let it be a part of who you are.” That middle way seems more wise to me. You don’t reject your heritage, but you don’t worship it either. It’s only a part of who you are, not the whole. And the Maid never really learns this either. But anyway, the girl’s conclusion doesn’t really say much to me. It doesn’t seem to include the balancing fact that she is also who she is because of all the influencing people in her life, not merely her mother. I mean she should have learned a lot about life from that family she was with for three months, you’d think. Despite these confusing and contradicting elements and themes, the movie still captures some very touching human moments and wisdom along the way. I probably sound more negative here than I should. Oh well, forgive me.

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