James L Brooks
Adam Sandler……….John Clasky
Tea Leoni……….Deborah Clasky
Paz Vega……….Flor Moreno
Cloris Leachman……….Evelyn Norwich
Victoria Luna……….Cristina, six-years-old
Cecilia Suarez……….Monica (as Cecilia Suarez)
In many ways, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey have a lot in common career wise. Both got their big break in ensemble prime time comedies (Sandler on Saturday Night Live and Carrey on In Living Color), both released several ridiculously funny movies that catapulted them into superstardom. Carrey had a year of years in 1994 with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber. Sandler’s rise was not as meteoric but Airheads, Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison did help propel him upward to the superstardom he currently enjoys.
Both actors have often played the same sort of manic-depressive character (Carrey as the more manic prone to fits of quiet as opposed to Sandler’s depressive prone to fits of anger). Starting in the latter half the ’90s, both men were at a fork in the road. On one hand, there is the path to money and fame by being the same sort of zany comic. The other way is to try and become a serious dramatic actor. Sandler forked to the side of comic, while Carrey took the road less traveled.
Carrey has gone Oscar hunting in his movie making madness, mixing in comedies to maintain his viability as a box office draw alive long enough to produce Oscar grab attempts like The Majestic and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Carrey’s star is no where near as bright as where it once was as he is still not close to winning an Academy Award. Yet his comedic pull still pays his bills. Sandler has gone the other way, churning out screwball comedies that pander to an audience amassed over the past decade to the tune of about $100 million in revenue per diem. In between a litany of incredibly funny and incredibly juvenile comedies lies the one jewel in the Sandler acting crown: Punch Drunk Love. While largely forgotten in 2002 as Mr. Deeds dominated both the box office and the spotlight, in it Sandler pulled out the best performance of his acting career.
I think in his heart Sandler wants the same sort of critical acclaim that Carrey has received. In a big departure from what has been his norm, the two movies he could’ve starred in this year were completely the opposite of his last couple of movies. While initially cast as Max in Collateral, he opted to make Spanglish instead of taking the part that earned Jamie Foxx one of two Oscar nominations in 2004.
In Spanglish Sandler is John Clasky, the calm leader of a real whacky family. His wife Deborah, Tea Leoni, is a manic depressive with a household in a state of flux. His daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele) has issues, his mother-in-law lives with them and drinks heavily.
Enter Flor (Paz Vega) and her daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) as their new live-in housekeeper. Flor enters the family’s rather dysfunctional existence and affects it quickly. She is an illegal immigrant from Mexico, trying to find a better job so she can keep on an eye on 12-year-old Cristina.
The family has all the trappings of a sitcom setup: John is a fabulous chef with a four-star restaurant, Deborah is a manic-depressive unemployed housewife searching for the meaning of her existence, and they have an alcoholic grandparent staying with them (Cloris Leachman as Evelyn, Deborah’s mother).
John’s problem is the restaurant itself. He doesn’t want the four star rating, as it signifies the end of him having a good restaurant that you don’t need a reservation and getting a trendy restaurant that is booked solid three months in advance. Deborah is trying to be a stay-at-home mother after being laid off. Bernice has issues with her mother regarding her weight. But the thing that makes this different from either a sitcom or the typical setup of an Adam Sandler movie is the way in which the characters react.
John is a calm and cool guy. The world around him is absolutely nuts and in a typical movie Sandler would be ranting, raving, and swearing in rage induced comedy antics that somehow involve him hit with something. But this isn’t a regular Sandler movie, as his problems are real and he has to deal with them in a real manner. He’s the good guy for his kids, his wife the screaming lunatic, and to deal with her he has to be patient. He is the eye of the hurricane, blissfully calm in a way that allows him to handle his restaurant and his family.
The movie functions around this hurricane of family life and Flor’s entry in to it. In the beginning of the movie, Cristina acts as her translator. In one scene she acts as translator in a conversation between Flor and John, mimicking their facial reactions and body movements in side-splitting comedic fashion.
Flor’s adaptation from the barios of Mexico and L.A. serve as a metaphor for the characters throughout the movie. In the beginning, we get to see one side of John and Deborah and the context of their relationship alongside the mother-daughter bond between Cristina and Flor. Their marriage shifts and changes, and Cristina’s shift into their culture affects her relationship with Flor, who learns to speak English and is better able to function in the world that surrounds her.
In the summer they spend together, all four develop in very different ways. John withdraws from his wife and begins a quasi-relationship with Flor. Deborah has an affair; Cristina becomes more like Deborah while Bernice ends up becoming more like Flor. Flor’s presence goes from being just an employee to being a member of the family until the point where it all has to end. The ending is a little cold, but it’s appropriate. There are no long-winded questions, no happy endings, no princesses to be saved in their world. This movies doesn’t leave a warm feeling, or any good sort of feeling, when leaving the theatre. In the end, there are still problems to be solved and situations to be dealt with. But sometimes there are no happy endings.
Sandler is taking the core of his audience from over a decade ago (people who have been paying to see him from Happy Gilmore on) and slowly pulling them up in terms of the context of his movies. You can’t always beat Shooter McGavin in the final hole on a miracle shot. It’s not necessary to always use juvenile humor to get a laugh every 90 seconds and Spanglish is Sandler’s way of showing the world what he can do when he isn’t getting punched out by Bob Barker.
Sony really went all the way with their video presentation of the movie, as the movie just looks absolutely magnificent. The colors are sharp and vivid, really bringing the movie to life. The color contrast and the pastels are very sharp. They really went out of their way to bring the vividness of the movie to the small screen. Just watching the movie is an aesthetic joy.
Sony also cleaned up the sound of the movie as well as the look. You can hear everything that happens, from footsteps to the crinkling of bags, comes in loud and clear. For a movie that really doesn’t need it, the audio for Spanglish is above and beyond the requisite vocal clarity required for a dialogue-based dramatic comedy.
Audio Commentary James L. Brooks and Editor Tia Nolan –
Brooks goes through and explains a lot about the movie from his perspective, as well as Nolan’s explanations for a lot of what she edited out at the point where it would’ve been inserted. It’s pretty standard fare, to be honest, as they really don’t lay out anything that is particularly noteworthy.
12 deleted scenes
Coming with yet another optional commentary from the director, the DVD comes with the parts of Spanglish that didn’t make it into the theatre. And what didn’t get put in is just superb, as they really show off Sandler’s acting abilities. While he is quite good in the movie, the best work he did was left on the cutting room floor. And that seems to be the motif of the deleted scenes of the movie; they are a lot of extended scenes from earlier moments that really develop the movie much more. There is much more development into John and Deborah’s relationship with each other, much more subtlety with how they understand each other, than the movie as is allows us to see. It’s disappointing to see all of these scenes, though, and know just how much better the movie could have been if it hadn’t had the edit job it was given. It’s possible to see why they took out the scenes, but there are several with Leoni that are just outrageously funny.
Casting Sessions with Optional Commentary
I’m not sure, but I think they wanted as much of the film and its extras included with Brooks’ commentary. Steele, Vega, Bruce and Victoria Luna (six-year-old Cristina) all go through the initial casting session. It’s relatively short, but it is somewhat interesting to see how they put young children through the acting motions in order to see how good they can be. It is interesting to see the same thing that Brooks did when he auditioned them all and the way they have Luna audition is interesting for the brief moment it is on-screen.
“How to Make the World’s Greatest Sandwich” featuring Thomas Keller
Springing out of the late-night snack sandwich that Sandler makes for himself in the movie, we get to see Keller (the world class chef who worked with Sandler on his cooking abilities) make the type of sandwich he would make. Keller’s “Late Night BLT Sandwich with Fried Egg & Cheese” is show in a quick start to finish from Keller, as he shows off his cooking abilities, and then it provides a copy of the recipe and the ingredients needed to make it. It is a neat little tidbit and looks like a wonderful late night snack.
HBO First Look: The Making of SPANGLISH
This is really two different, and short, vignettes in one. Both are interesting and not given nearly enough time, as just as it starts to get into the piece, it ends quickly.
The first is a puff piece from HBO about the production of the movie in which they get the principles together to talk about how they loved the movie, script, cast. Brooks is the focal point of the piece, as the cast talk about the things he did with the movie and his interpretation of the movie and its’ script.
The second is a look at the movie as a sort of culture clash; Brooks, Leoni, Sandler, Vega and the rest of the cast talk about parenting and a lot of the ways culture reflects it.
Overall, it’s not a real inside look at the movie or its message; it’s a cursory look to get ready for the movie.
Teaser trailers for the movie version of Bewitched as well as House of Flying Daggers, Something’s Gotta Give, As Good As It Gets and Silverado.
DVD-Rom: SPANGLISH Screenplay
If you’re ever wanted to see the official screenplay for a movie, then you can look at this if you have a DVD-Rom drive on your computer.
Score : 8/10