Netflix Update No. 48: “Broken English”

June 10, 2011


In the 2007 film “Broken English,” Parker Posey plays the kind of character who makes you wish you could climb into the screen and either hug her or slap her. She is Nora Wilder, and if the name seems a little distingué, Nora isn’t. She has a nice little management job in a nice little Manhattan hotel, but she doesn’t have a successful love life. Other thirtiesh women do — or seem to, at least — but when Nora does start dating a man these days, the outcome is never good, what with the other girlfriend and the ex who can’t let go and like that. The situation isn’t made any better by Nora’s mother, Vivien — very well played by Gena Rowlands — a sweetheart for all other purposes who has a clumsy way of reminding Nora of her desperate condition.

Nora does meet one man who doesn’t seem to be dragging around the barnacles that weigh down her usual beaux – a thoughtful Parisian named Julien, played by Melvil Paupaud. Considering her experiences up to this point and the sharp contrast presented by this liaison, her tentative approach to this man is both understandable and frustrating.


Julien returns to Paris, and the action of the movie follows him there, and from that point, you’re on your own.

This movie, which was written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes, got a lot of attention at the Sundance Film Festival, and with good reason. The story is effectively filmed in realistic surroundings in New York and Paris; there’s nothing obvious here. The writer does lean a little heavily on coincidence at one point, but so did Dickens. Cassavetes achieves just the right balance between the oppressive nature of Nora’s dilemma and the comic situations that arise from it.

What with the actors, the characters, the story and the cinematography, this is worth a couple of hours on the couch.


2 Responses to “Netflix Update No. 48: “Broken English””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    This one will go into the queue along with the Taxi episodes and Last Chance Harvey, which still is languishing in its DVD slot, patiently waiting.

    It seems I may have some sitting around time ahead of me, albeit in a hospital room rather than on the couch. Over the past two weeks my mother’s fallen (no structural damage), landed in the ER, been admitted to the hospital, been discharged to a skilled nursing facility, been re-admitted to the hospital in the middle of the night and now is languishing in the ICU – a veritable medical snowball rolling downhill.

    Once she’s out of isolation and I can take my laptop into her room, I think I’ll have plenty of time to enjoy these little gems you keep surfacing, and maybe I’ll be able to interest her. I can take only so much of Congressman Weiner and the Anthony trial.

    Oppressive situations can give rise to terrific comedy. One of my favorite stories from the nursing home set concerns George Burns. He was visiting around a nursing home, perhaps after doing a show. He walked up to a woman on a sofa, stuck out his hand and asked, “Do you know who I am?”

    “No, sweetie,” she said, “I certainly don’t. But if you go to that desk over there, they probably can tell you.”

    What’s not to like about that?

    • charlespaolino Says:

      I’m sorry to hear your mother has had such a rough time. We’re in that sort of anxious time with respect to my wife’s mother, who is going to be 90 in November. She’s still living on her own, which is her choice, but we always worry about falls and other such things that menace the aged.

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