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Broken English (2007)

Broken English. Feature film. (2007, 97 mins) IMDB

...if only they got the third act right...

T

he title for this film, BROKEN ENGLISH, comes, I guess, from the fact our hero's love interest is French and English is his second language. I know many Europeans for whom English is a second language and they speak it as well as anyone in North America or Britain. It all depends on when and where they learnt the language. It's a cliché to have a foreigner speak with "broken English" but so be it.

Our hero in the film is Nora Wilder played by Parker Posey--the so called "Queen of the indies." This film is definitely an indie. It doesn't follow the Hollywood standards for romantic comedies.

There is romance and love and lost love and angst in this film, but I didn't see a great deal of comedy. Supposedly it's there, but I didn't see. Not even satirical moments. That's not a complaint, just my observation.

The fact the film doesn't follow Hollywood standards and norms for romantic comedies, means the film isn't, for the most part, predictable, but it also lacks what we enjoy in those types of film--we enjoy fantasy. Most of us are so bewildered and disappointed with life, we want our spirits lifted by a movie that lies to us about true love and romance. We're suckers for it. This film is not one of those films.

One of the challenges, of many, a writer must overcome in writing any story, is naming the characters. It seems like a simple task, but it is quite difficult. You can't use Jack Kennedy or Lee Oswald or Al Capone and so on and so on. John Brown and John Smith are bland. Martha and Edith don't cut it either. Samantha isn't the same as Elizabeth which is different from Sarah. Or is that Sara? See. Naming characters is quite difficult.

Our screenwriter follows an unusual choice. See if you can catch it. NORA WILDER. NICK GABLE. CHARLIE ROSE. PETER ANDREWS. IRVING. AUDREY. VIVIEN. JENNIFER ROSS. Sorry, the last one is a friend of mine. There are probably others, but I've never seen such choices before.

I'm not sure why she chose these names, they all bring to mind connotations that aren't necessarily appropriate for this film. NICK and NORA (CHARLES) comes from THE THIN MAN movies of the 1930s and 40s starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. That couple is fun, amusing, amicable and in love. In this film, Nick is a cad who uses Nora for a one night stand. Not quite the same. Oops.

Is it possible the filmmakers are referring back to those old B&W films as a statement about love today? No for the simple reason 9.7 out of 10 people wouldn't know anything about THE THIN MAN or its two stars. The closest you might get to recognition are the names RICK and ISLA, but even then the numbers don't improve greatly and that's for a well-known movie with two well-know stars.

But back to the story.

Nora is lost in Manhattan. She has no lover, no husband, and doesn't know what she wants. She's searching for something but can't find it. You and I can both relate. It's universal.

She has several dates, but they're disasters.

It doesn't help that her best friend just celebrated her fifth wedding anniversary in what is a "perfect" marriage. It doesn't help that her mother is needling her about being single and not being set up with some man.

By chance she meets a Frenchman at a house party. She's so burnt out with life she's not interested, but he won't give up and thus begins Act II and a weekend of romance and when it's over he returns to Paris.

Not surprisingly, in circumstances I don't understand (this film likes coincidences and a lack of logic and that's okay when we're dealing with romance, but to a point), Nora and her best friend Audrey end up in Paris. They just happen to be there and decide to find Julien, Nora happens to lose her contact information for him which makes contacting him impossible and just as the movie is ending, he just happens to get on the same subway car she's riding to get to the airport.

I don't understand the third act. I don't understand the abrupt ending. There are many more ways it could have gone and this seems to be least desirable.

In a way I think I expected more from this film, but yet, until the third act, the film represents a truer picture about life and romance. This film is not the first one to get it right early and blow up in the third act--the toughest one to get right.

Posted 2009/04/15 at 17h37ET in Movie Commentary.

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