Nora (the usually whacked-out though always effective Parker Posey) is a late 30's Guest Relations manager in a groovy NYC hotel. She is at the end of her rope relationship-wise having spent the bulk of her romantic life avoiding love and having love avoid her. We all know a Nora: hungry for a man, a relationship but when a "good catch" (whatever that means to Nora) comes near, Nora thinks of a hundred reaasons why it wouldn't work and retreats behind the emotional wall she has psychically built for herself: a wall of regret and lame excuses held together with the cement of many years of tears and self-loathing. Her mother, Vivien (the National treasure and director Zoë Cassavetes' mother as well, Gena Rowlands) encourages her to grab life by the neck and shake it until it releases something good and so Nora, uncharacteristically attends the party of one of her co-workers and in the process meets a laid-back, good-natured Frenchman, Julien (Melvil Poupaud of "Time to Leave") whose "Broken English" has Nora confusing his saying "I'm hungry" with "I'm Angry." Nora and Julien spend an idyllic weekend in New York and director Cassavetes manages to avoid all the usual clichés as Nora basically freaks out, pulls back and unfurls again both emotionally and physically while Julien watches, reacts in a calming, encouraging manner much to Nora's surprise who is both attracted and repelled by Julien's coolness. "Broken English" is a small film not likely to attract much attention but that would be a shame because what Cassavetes has managed to do is to make not only the ridiculous sublime but to also make, in it's quiet, well observed way... the sublime human and believable.
Low key, and all the better for it, Broken English explores New York thirty-something Nora's nervy, anxious search for the love which she senses is passing her by. Parker Posey is great in the role, her confidence, mood, even her appearance visibly changing from scene to scene as the movie progresses. Melvin Poupaud, as Julien, the Frenchman she runs into, is a perfect foil, sensitive to her mood swings and anxieties while, in demanding the big decision on which the film pivots, creating some fresh ones of his own.
The action swings between New York and Paris and for once Paris looks like itself, not illustrated by the usual stock footage of the Eiffel Tower seen through a hotel window. A small, resonant, genuinely romantic and very human film - I liked it a lot.
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