Broken English

Director: Zoe R. Cassavetes

Shot in just twenty days, Broken English marks the writing and directing feature film debut of Zoe Cassavetes (the daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands) who tackles the emotional terrain explored in not only the films of her parents but her brother Nick (Unhook the Stars) as well. Parker Posey stars as thirty something Nora Wilder—an intelligent, attractive but hard drinking, cigarette smoking New York singleton who pops pills to counteract her anxiety attacks and insomnia. Working by day as a guest relations coordinator who supervises a staff that caters to the spontaneous and often ridiculous whims of wealthy celebrity clientele, Nora spends most of her free time lamenting her status as a lonely single woman. At the beginning of the film, she celebrates the anniversary of the couple for whom she’d played matchmaker—her best friend Audrey (Sopranos star Drea de Matteo) and husband Mark (Tim Guinee)—which prompts more obsessions with her solitary status by Nora, her friends, her mother Gena Rowlands and stepfather Peter Bogdanovich. After a few disastrous dates with all the wrong men including a fix-up from her mother and a childish celebrity from her hotel, Nora meets a slightly younger Frenchman named Julien (Melvil Poupaud) at a party she nearly skips hosted by a coworker. Although she’s reluctant to take the man seriously, the two have a whirlwind fling that may indeed develop into lasting love, although Cassavetes is an astute director never content to let her characters take any shortcuts along the way. Nominated for Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and winner of an award from the Moscow International Film Festival, Cassavetes’s earnest character piece provides a wonderful chance for independent film star Parker Posey to shine but her abrasive and whiny character does grate on our nerves early on into the film and we find ourselves much more fascinated by de Matteo’s bored housewife, especially when she and Nora venture to France to track down Julien to try and earn themselves a happy ending.