I despise romantic comedies as a rule, but Zoe Cassevetes‘ Broken English is an exception, perhaps because it doesn’t try to be “funny” as much as sardonic and bitterly truthful about what a slog it is out there for no-longer-young women who are “looking for love,” or at least for a relationship that allows for the possibility of something nourishing and genuine.
For what it is and as far as it goes, English is very bright and absorbing, and it contains the most affecting and vulnerable performance of Parker Posey‘s 38-year life. She may seem to be doing the same thing here that she’s done in many films before; the difference is that there’s a bit more sadness in her features, a hint of a crack in her voice at times, and a greater willingness to show her buried child. Her performance is further enhanced by Cassevetes’ tip-top script.
After last night’s 7:30 screening I asked Toronto Globe & Mail critic Liam Lacey what he thought. “Not bad but thin,” he basically replied. I said, “Okay, yes, but the slightness is very smart. I mean, c’mon…have you ever seen a movie about a woman in her 30s looking for the right guy to fall in love with that satisfied your heavy-osity criteria?” He laughed.
The film gets rolling and digs in when Nora (Posey), a Manhattan hotel worker, meets Julian (Melvil Poupaud), a 30ish Parisian who seems soulful and sincere enough. The chemistry seems right, but then he takes off. Should Nora let it go and move on, or fly to Paris and see what happens next? In the hands of another director and with a lesser actress as Nora, a vehicle like Broken English might have been unwatchable. I mean, I usually hate shit like this. I wish that more romantic comedies were this smart and easy to sit through.
Drea de Mateo, Gena Rowlands and especially Justin Theroux provide tasty supporting performances. Theroux, playing a typically egoistic actor, is hilarious. He delivers his lines with just the right jaded aroma, never too broad or buffoony.