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Film / Spanglish

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A 2004 American dramedy film written and directed by James L. Brooks about language, culture barriers and forbidden love.

Flor Moreno (Paz Vega) is a recent illegal Mexican immigrant who, with her daughter Cristina (Shelbie Brucenote ), hopes to start over and make a new life in America. After staying in the Los Angeles barrio with family, Flor finds work as a housekeeper for the affluent Clasky family. John Clasky (Adam Sandler) is a head chef at a popular restaurant, while Deborah (Téa Leoni) is a stay-at-home mother with somewhat neurotic tendencies. They have two kids, Bernice (Sarah Steele), who's self-conscious about her weight, and Georgie (Ian Highland), who is informally taking singing lessons with his grandmother Evelyn Wright (Cloris Leachman), an alcoholic former jazz singer.

This results in a variety of clashes between the different factions in the house, providing the main conflict driving the film.

Flor attempts to remain isolated from the Claskys, wanting to hold on to her cultural identity for the sake of herself and her daughter, but things aren't always that simple...

Contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Evelyn. She quits drinking later in the story.
  • Big Damn Kiss: John and Flor.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Used primarily in the scene where John and Flor argue because they don't speak each other's language for both comedy and drama. They communicate through Cristina, who is the only one to know both languages, and who is requested to communicate not just every single word but intentions and emotions behind them as well. This leads to a humorous moment where John curses, Cristina translates that too, and her mother looks shocked at her young daughter translating that. It leads to John carefully censoring himself for the rest of the conversation.
  • Bittersweet Ending: You can't argue that everyone has grown throughout the film, but they all take a beating and it's definitely not a stereotypical Disney ending.
    Evelyn: Not the worst thing in the world to learn that you actually love your husband, right?
  • Brick Joke: Deb yells at Flor not to play fetch with Chum in the house. Later, when listening to her English learning tapes, she's distracted and tosses the ball away, which makes Chum want to do it more, knocking stuff over and wreaking havoc. Oops!
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Inverted. Deborah is trying to justify her It's All About Me behavior with taking Cristina out on what is essentially a mother-daughter date without the permission of Cristina's own mother. Evelyn immediately tells her this was shitty behavior and there's no way to justify kidnapping someone's child just because you like them better than your own children.
    • Cristina does this to Flor at the end when she quits her job and realizes she won't see the Claskys anymore, saying she'll never forgive her for this, only to immediately realize that she's done a horrible thing by screaming at and shaming her mother in public.
  • Compliment Backfire: Deborah buys her daughter new clothes, only for the girl to find out that the clothes are sizes smaller and Deborah says that she will look beautiful when she loses the weight. Understandably, the girl breaks into tears and John is furious.
  • Control Freak: Deborah.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: A major plot point as one might guess from the title. Flor speaks fluent Spanish but almost no English and the transition to be able to speak it in a better and more proper manner is important to the storyline. It's best proved during the job interview when Deborah is treating Flor a little like a moron at first simply because she can't speak English, but when Flor's cousin translates for her, it's clear she's smart, on-the-ball, and knows a lot more about what is going on around her than Deborah first thinks.
  • Food Porn: DAT SANDWICH. A DVD extra even shows how to make it!
  • Framing Device: Cristina wants to get into Princeton; her admissions essay is our story.
  • Heroic BSoD: The revelation that Deb was cheating on John absolutely blows his mind. A bit of a twist in that John goes right on speaking; that's how he stays sane through it, apparently.
    • "Well, there was a crack in the planet... that was noisy. Ah, man...
  • Honor Before Reason: Flor makes Cristina give back all the money John gave her despite the fact that A) Cristina did legitimately earn the money even if she ended up making way more than John expected and B) Being a single-parent household, they could definitely use the cash.
  • Hypocrite: Flor is upset at John for interfering in Cristina's life by offering her money for a job she did. But Flor interfered first by altering Bernice's clothes. John calls her on this, and she concedes immediately, which heightens their mutual attraction...
  • The Immodest Orgasm: One of the most ridiculous examples in film.
  • Instant Expert: Averted in regards to learning a new language. Flor is shown slowly learning English over a period of at least several months, doing so mainly through rigorous studying and practicing night and day.
  • It's All About Me: Deborah. When she achieves her happy ending, she passes out, leaving John high and dry, if you will.
    • Technically, since she was on top, he was low and wet.
  • Left Hanging: The story ends when the Morenos' time with the Claskys comes to an end, and we never find out what became of Bernice, of Deborah and John's marriage, of John's attraction with Flor, or even whether Cristina got into Princeton. However, that's actually the point; Cristina says explicitly that the goal of the exercise was her Character Development, and that none of those answers are relevant to her arc.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: John is the one left sexually unsatisfied due to how his wife Deborah just emotionless grinds at him during sex until she quickly gets off and subsequently falls asleep.
  • Manly Tears: John's reaction to Bernice's reaction to the gifts.
    • Cristina narrating: "He seemed to be a good man, but to someone with experience with Latin macho... he seemed to have the emotions of a Mexican woman."
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: Deborah in spades. If the movie had been made today, she would have definitely been called a Karen.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The fact that Evelyn sobered up is kind of a big deal.
  • Pet the Dog: Flor's first real connection with the family is by altering Bernice's clothes so that they'll fit her. Bernice figures out what is going on anyway but is touched by the gesture.
  • Precision F-Strike: John's other reaction to Bernice's reaction to the gifts.
  • Replacement Goldfish: A rather nasty example in that Deborah starts paying a lot of attention to Cristina because she's everything Bernice is not: thin, obedient, book-smart, and conventionally attractive.
  • Sexily Modest: During a heart-to-heart talk on a beach with John, Flor is shown wearing a loose-fitting button down blouse and a long white skirt; however, the night breeze flattens them out and shows off her VERY generous curves, causing John (who's developed a crush on Flor) to blurt, "Would you get out of the damn wind?!"
  • Suddenly Shouting: John gives Flor a ride home, both in the midst of emotional crises. They're both upset that John's (the employer) family is in crisis due to his wife cheating on him and his strong emotional connection with Flor.
    Flor: I quit this job! [literally]
    John: I QUIT THIS JOB! [metaphorically]
  • This Is My Story
  • The Unfavorite: Bernice to Deborah. It's very obvious to everyone that Deborah would rather have Cristina as a daughter.
  • Translation by Volume: The whole family does this to Flor at various points before she learns English but Deborah is the worst offender.
  • Translator Buddy: Cristina to her mother for the first part of the film.