Friday, July 28, 2017

Spanglish

Year 9, Day 209 - 7/28/17 - Movie #2,698

BEFORE: My recent experience with San Diego Comic-Con has colored everything - I came to the conclusion that I started to travel out there each year as part of my job, sure, but also because the convention held the promise of some fun for me.  But over time, each year it became a little less fun, I had less and less free time to explore the event, so basically I was just left with the job.  For which I am paid, and I am thankful for that, but it seems now that the stress and hassle has overtaken the fun part, so to me it's just a job. 

I hope that I don't ever reach that point with the Movie Year - but watching several Adam Sandler films in a row could bring me to the conclusion that I'm just continuing to do this out of habit.  If I don't enjoy this part of the chain, then what's the point?  Can I get enough satisfaction just out of the organization of the films, the feeling I get when I cross a film off of the list, even a terrible one?  The knowledge that I'll never, ever have to watch that film again, unless for some reason I decide I want to?  Can I adopt some kind of distance between myself  and a terrible film, so I can watch it merely out of curiosity, to acquaint myself with this particular corner of pop culture, to have knowledge of the film, just in case I ever need it (you never know, I may be on Jeopardy! some day...)? 

That's kind of how I feel about these 5 Adam Sander films (are they over yet?) I'm curious enough to watch them, though I don't expect I'll enjoy them, and they will help me get to my next section of the list, and then we need never speak of them again.  Sound OK? 


THE PLOT: A woman and her daughter emigrate from Mexico for a better life in America, where they start working for a family where the patriarch is a celebrated chef with an insecure wife.

AFTER: I just got back from California earlier this week, and even though this film was made back in 2004, I can confirm that it hits the nail on the head when depicting California types - they've developed a reputation over the years for being laid-back and easy-going, but from what I've seen first-hand, nothing could be further from the truth.  From what I encountered, people there are just as screwed-up and self-centered as the people I see in New York.  Which means they act like the rules don't apply to them - I saw a guy bring a DOG into a bagel cafe (completely unsanitary, this should be against the rules) and I saw a woman bring her own food (salads purchased at a grocery) into the café at the convention center.  In my day, that would have caused her to be thrown out, especially since the restaurant she was in sold salads, and she bought exactly nothing there. 

I see this same sort of behavior in the wife's character here - constantly putting herself and her opinions first, without any regard for other people's feelings or opinions.  All she talks about is how she gave up her career as a designer/decorator in order to raise her children - but she really hires a nanny to do all the hard work, so what is it exactly that she does all day?  Oh yeah, she's too busy being a neurotic rich person.  Give me a break. 

I didn't mind the chef character, maybe because I've already seen two films this year about chefs and their screwed-up personal lives ("Burnt" and "Chef") and this kind of fits right in with that theme.  The culinary skills are sort of a given, but in all 3 cases these chef characters have no clue how to relate to children or their wives/girlfriends.  Basically because watching a film about someone who's got it all figured out wouldn't be very interesting.  But conversely, watching a film about people who can't figure out ANYTHING where their personal lives are concerned might be swinging too far in the other direction. 

I imagine one of those internet click-bait links that's titled "Why Hollywood Won't Hire Tea Leoni Any More" and you follow it to a page that just reads, "Because Spanglish".   She's just so over-the-top here, like she needed to be at the intensity of a "6" but the director told her to be at level 10.  I get that her character is supposed to be insecure, but did she need to be frantic, erratic and manic, all at the same time?  The actress who played her daughter was nearly half as bad, though it seems the director just told her to look exasperated at every possible opportunity.  For once, Adam Sandler played the calm, quiet character - still neurotic, just not as screamy as the other actors. 

I got very confused near the start of the film, when Flor went to interview for the nanny position with this family - because we had just seen Flor move to America with her young daughter, and then the narration mentioned something about 6 years passing.  So when I saw Flor going to the job interview, I thought that the woman with her was her daughter, now 6 years older.  Instead it was a family friend that she had brought with her to translate, but the identity character was never properly introduced.  And then Flor doesn't mention her daughter to the Clasky family for a long time, and this also was weird, it was never properly explained, at least not to my satisfaction. 

After Flor's daughter was properly introduced to the family, the following scenes were also very strange simply because the daughter was bi-lingual and always translating.  So the family members would speak directly to Flor, but her daughter would respond for her.  Maybe this is a common occurrence in real life when there's a language barrier, but in a film, it just doesn't work.  I can't even think of another film where something like this happens, because it's just so confusing that no film ever plans scenes like this. 

The film tries to make some kind of point, I suppose, about parenting - how you're not supposed to insert yourself between someone and their kids - but isn't that exactly what a nanny is hired to do?  Again, the wife/mother character is so over-the-top, the way she inserts herself into Flor's daughter's story, in the interests of doing what she feels is "best" is so obnoxious.  How can I like this character if she's such a screw-up, and so unapologetic for her actions?

And it's so cliché to have a husband attracted to the beautiful Mexican nanny - maybe it does happen in real life, perhaps even more often than we think, but that doesn't mean that it's not a cliché.  And to have the whole thing framed as a story told in an application to Princeton University - ugh, another cliché, and it's totally unnecessary.  NITPICK POINT: When you think about it, the entire premise doesn't make any sense.  If Flor was working two jobs and never had any time to supervise her daughter, how does taking the nanny job solve this problem?  It seems like after that, she's working for the Claskys around the clock, essentially, and her daughter is left home, unsupervised.  How is that an improvement?

I'm sure there are more inconsistencies in the parenting styles and the contradictory rules that each parent seems to have, but I haven't got the will to get into this and really pick them apart.

Also starring Tea Leoni (last seen in "Hollywood Ending"), Paz Vega (last heard in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"), Cloris Leachman (last seen in "Listen to Me Marlon"), Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele (last seen in "The To Do List"), Ian Hyland (last seen in "The Skeleton Twins"), Cecilia Suarez, the voice of Aimee Garcia, and a cameo from Thomas Haden Church (last seen in "Daddy's Home").

RATING: 3 out of 10 language lessons

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