Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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The movie Spanglish received a lot of hype before its release to theaters, mostly because it was written and directed by James L. Brooks. The last movie he made, As Good As It Gets, received critical acclaim and won many awards. Personally, I found that movie, and Helen Hunts performance in it, to be greatly over rated. Even though I didnt really care for As Good As It Gets, I was still interested in seeing Spanglish.
Flor had to raise her daughter, Cristina, by herself after her husband left her. Flor decided that she could give Cristina a better life in the United States, so they left their home in Mexico. They stayed with one of Flors cousins in Los Angeles. Flor worked two jobs within the Mexican community where she lived for several years. Boys started to notice Cristina as she got older which concerned her mother. Flor decided that she needed to find one job that would pay as much as the two she had so she wouldnt be away from Cristina as much. Flors cousin set up an interview for a housekeeping job with Deborah Clasky.
Deborah wasnt sure about Flor not speaking English at first, but she hired her. Deborah had recently lost her job due to downsizing and she was struggling in her new role of stay at home wife and mother. She and her daughter Bernice had a troubled relationship. Bernice was a little overweight and Deborah always managed to say the wrong thing about that situation. Flor was upset by things that happened between the two and did something to try to help. John, Deborahs husband, didnt like how she treated their daughter, but he didnt seem to know what to do about it. He was a talented chef that was worried about his restaurant. Deborahs mother Evelyn also lived with them. She drank a lot and was out of if most of the time. She and John were kind to Flor. Deborah decided that the family was going to the beach for the summer and she expected Flor to go with them and live there. Flor wasnt happy, but she agreed so she wouldnt lose her job. She reluctantly moved in with Cristina. Deborah immediately started to shower Cristina with attention, ignoring Bernice even more. John didnt treat Cristina any different than he did his own children. Flor decided to learn English, which made communicating with the family easier. Deborah continued to meddle in Cristinas life, upsetting Flor more.
There was a lot going on in Spanglish. That did keep things interesting for me, but I do think there was too much going on. There were so many subplots that there really wasnt enough time spent on any of them, which left several things unresolved. I think that the main story was Flor and how she was trying to do what she thought was best for her daughter. Deborah and Bernice had a very strained relationship. Much of the conflict between them came from how Deborah put down Bernice about her weight. It was never shown if Deborah stopped picking on Bernices weight and accepted her for who she was. Flor made some decisions based on what she thought was best for Cristina. Some of those decisions did cause some trouble between them. There was a hint about how some of those decisions turned out in the long run, but several things were left up in the air. I did wonder after the movie was over if Flor had actually enforced a few things. John and Deborah had a crisis in their relationship and it wasnt shown how that eventually worked out. I wasnt happy that so many aspects of the movie had no resolution. I wasnt specific about what I felt was unresolved because I dont want to reveal too much for people who havent seen this movie yet.
Spanglish is a hard movie for me to classify. There was humor in the movie, along with drama and sad events. The movie made me laugh several times, but I really dont think it was a comedy. Some of the humor came from the trouble that Flor had in understanding her new employers. It wasnt mean spirited, but some people might be offended by those things. The stereotype of an immigrant as a servant was present in the movie, though I thought that Flor was shown in a positive light. John, Evelyn, and the children seemed to try more than Deborah to communicate with Flor. She did go home and ask Cristina how to say a few phrases. Eventually Flor decided to learn English. She and Cristina lived in the United States for several years before Flor started to work for the Claskys. Cristina was able to speak English and Spanish fluently, but Flor didnt learn any English at all until after she had her new job. She had worked and lived in a Mexican community before that, so not being able to speak or understand English hadnt been a problem for her. Personally, I wouldnt want to live in a country where I couldnt speak the language. Flor and Cristina talked to each other in Spanish and Cristina acted as an interpreter for her mother at times. Subtitles were only used a few times.
Some of the characters had to deal with some very difficult and emotional things. Spanglish showed highs and lows of the characters, much like was done in As Good As It Gets. I feel that it was done better in Spanglish. Deborah probably had the most emotional scenes of any character. She did something that hurt her marriage and she felt like she needed to get everything about the situation out in the open. Deborah was a complete mess in some scenes late in the movie. Evelyn started to pull herself back together and was able to be there for her daughter during the crisis. Certain aspects of Deborahs meltdown also contained some humor, which kept the movie from becoming depressing. There wasnt any action, adventure, or mystery in the movie, but I still found it entertaining. This isnt a movie for everyone. It did move slower than some movies, but that didnt bother me. I didnt think that the pace dragged, but other people may feel that the movie is too slow.
John and Deborah had been married for several years. John was much more affectionate toward her than she was toward him. She did brush him when he was trying to be affectionate once or twice. There was one sex scene between John and Deborah. It was probably the funniest sex scene I have ever seen in a movie and I have seen the one between Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give. Deborahs reaction to what she was feeling is what made the scene so funny. She was vocal and made a very strange face. She did have her sports bra on and the sheet covered the lower half of her and John. He did have his shirt off. Adam Sandler looked like he has gained a bit of weight. Deborah was shown in the shower once, but you couldnt really see her. There was no actual nudity in the movie.
Spanglish was more character driven than plot driven. For the most part, the characters were very well developed. Flor was more complex than she seemed to be at first. She wanted a better life for Cristina, but she wasnt going to compromise her values or principals to achieve that. Flor did have a few flaws, like being a hypocrite about certain things. She did admit to that when John called her on it at one point. I thought that she was more real since she had flaws. John spent a lot of time worrying about his restaurant and Bernice. He didnt like certain things about his marriage but he didnt do anything to change things. Evelyn spent a lot of time drinking, but she picked up on most of what was going on around her. She wasnt as out of touch as she seemed at first. Bernice was troubled by her weight and her mothers attitude about it. She and her brother Georgie werent developed as much as other characters. Cristina was developed a little more than Bernice and Georgie, but not as much as the adult characters. Deborah was probably the most flawed character. She was struggling with changes in her life. She was obsessed with being thin and proud of how toned her body was after having two children. She made many remarks about her daughters weight. She blamed other people for her problems. She was a bit of a stereotype for a bored, rich, spoiled, housewife. There really wasnt anything to like about Deborah.
I thought that the acting in Spanglish was very good. The role of John was more serious than any other Ive seen Adam Sandler in. He was good in the more understated part. Ive never seen Paz Vega in anything before. She was very good in the part. For a lot of the movie, she couldnt speak English, so her expressions really helped to convey what she was thinking and feeling. I was very impressed with her performance. She actually learned English while filming the movie. She has made several movies in Spain, but this was her first English speaking movie. Tea Leoni did a good job with the part of Deborah, a very unlikeable character. She was believable in the part, especially later in the movie when Deborah was falling apart. She did go a bit over board, but that worked for the character. Cloris Leachman was good and believable as Evelyn. She could have ended up going over the top with the role, but I dont think she did. Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele, and Ian Hyland were all fine in the roles of the children. I did hear that Sarah Steele gained weight to get the part of Bernice. Thomas Hayden Church had a small part as the realtor Deborah used to find the beach house.
Shelbie Bruce - Cristina
Thomas Hayden Church - Mike
Ian Hyland - Georgie
Cloris Leachman - Evelyn
Tea Leoni - Deborah
Adam Sandler - John
Sarah Steele - Bernice
Paz Vega - Flor
James L. Brooks - Writer and director
Spanglish was released to theaters in December of 2004. It is now available on DVD and VHS. The movie is rated PG-13 and 130 minutes long. This isnt a movie for children, though most of them probably wouldnt be interested in the movie anyway.
I enjoyed Spanglish even though I wasnt happy that some things were resolved. I think it is worth seeing, though it isnt a movie for everyone. Fans of James L. Brooks or the cast may enjoy the movie.
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Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age