BROKEN ENGLISH: I just got in from seeing an advanced screening of the new Parker Posey film Broken English. I am a big Parker fan, so I was excited when Mal said she had snagged some passes. The reviews on the film are so polarizing -- it really is one of those movies you love or hate. I loved it. Maybe because I feel like I'm at the same point in my life as Parker's character, Nora. She's a late 30-something New Yorker who has the worst luck with men. She drinks a little too much and she vacillates between being over-attentive and quick to fall in bed with men she meets or she's gun shy about their intentions. Her dead-end job as director of guest services at a chic boutique hotel -- where she basically sat around doing nothing -- reminded me of some of my past jobs.
Then she meets Julien (the beautiful Melvil Poupaud from Time To Leave), a Frenchman working sound on a film in NYC. They have an awkward weekend together, but there is real connection between them. Up until this moment, there has been dark humor and some easy laughs, but then Nora has a panic attack while she's out with Julien. We have seen the pill bottle sitting on her nightstand and in the medicine cabinet, watched her resist taking a pill, but not knowing it was anti-anxiety medication. Parker Posey trying to regain her composure in the bathroom rang so true and realistic that it was difficult to watch. Incredible acting. It also marked a shift in tone of the film.
Julien goes back to Paris and urges Nora to go with him, but she's afraid. After he leaves, she spirals out, quits her job and wanders the streets like a zombie. Her best friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo) talks Nora into going to Paris to look for Julian. They get cheap flights after agreeing to be couriers for unknown packages. This seems like a sidetrack to the main story, but the people they deliver the packages to turn out to be unexpected characters who put both Nora and Audrey's (who is bored with her "perfect" marriage) problems in perspective. Nora loses Julien's phone number and the search for him across Paris proves fruitless. When Audrey decides to return to NYC, Nora stays behind to wander the streets not looking for Julien but trying to find herself. She meets some quirky Parisians, including an older man who tells her that people often settle with so they won't be alone and others look for a magical relationship, but they are hard to find. When he drops her off at her hotel he says, "I don't know why, but I will never forget you."
Nora decides to go home and on the metro on the way to the airport, Julien gets on the train. Although they are reunited their future together is left uncertain...which is just the kind of ending I like. I hate when stories are wrapped up with a big bow on top. Zoe Cassavetes (daughter of John and Gena Rowlands, who has a funny cameo as Nora's overbearing mother) wrote and directed this film. While it doesn't have her father's intensity, there is a hint of the improvisation he used in such classics as A Woman Under the Influence. The film gives Parker Posey one of the finest of her career. Her often bitchy, sarcastic wit is all but buried, but she perfectly modulates the desperation and rudderless life of Nora.
Go see this.