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Family values in two-point harmony...

  • Mar 30, 2009
  • by
This unusual film is surprisingly entertaining, much more interesting than its advertising would suggest. The story is a familiar one, need vs. plenty, as a young mother and her daughter emigrate from Mexico, crossing the border illegally in hopes of a better life. Flor (Paz Vega) is hired to work as a domestic in a wealthy household, although she speaks not a word of English. John Clasky (Adam Sandler) is an award-winning chef, who provides a lifestyle for his wife, Deborah (Tea Leoni) and daughter that includes a Malibu beach house for the summer. Flor is induced to live at the Malibu home and care for the family when it is suggested that her daughter, Christina (Victoria Luna) come along. Flor finds her parenting challenged at every point by a spoiled and insensitive Deborah, a self-centered fitness junkie with a penchant for talking her family into submission.

Without a trace of subtlety, Deborah confronts her daughter's weight problem, under the guise of what is best for the girl, her husband chagrined by his wife's lack of sensitivity, but basically ineffective in the family dynamic. Turning to the lively and lovely Christina, Deborah smothers the child with opportunities that would otherwise be denied her, Deborah oblivious to anyone's needs but her own. Frustrated and hampered by the language barrier, understanding instinctively that she will need every tool available to offset Christina's growing ease with privilege and access, Flor takes a crash course in English. A determined Flor fights for her own territory and in the process wins the affection of the largely ignored John. Meanwhile Deborah pursues her own interests at the risk of her happy, if dysfunctional home. It would be easy to imagine the outcome of this domestic drama, but director James L. Brooks avoids the predictable, delivering a thought-provoking ending that gives a welcome twist to the immigrant issue.

Paz Vega (Flor) and Victoria Luna (Christina) provide the emotional core of this film, with engaging support from Sandler and Sarah Steele, as his daughter, Bernice. Vega shines on the screen, her acting a luminous antidote to the over-the-top Leoni, who ties herself into such an emotional knot that she becomes a parody of the self-indulgent over-privileged. For all her emotional gymnastics, Leoni never comes close to Vega, whose role is all the more powerful for its understatement. Luan Gaines.

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review by . May 03, 2009
This is one of the more enjoyable movies I have seen in the past year! It focuses on a single Mexican mother (Flor), who is trying to raise her daughter by working two jobs. When she realizes that she needs to spend more time with her daughter, she talks to a friend about helping her find a job that pays at least the combined salary of her two jobs.     The friend takes her to the home of a wealthy couple to be a housekeeper/nanny. This is a major change for her because since …
review by . November 20, 2005
Pros: Some noteworthy performances.     Cons: See Review     The Bottom Line: In the final analysis Paz Vega was not enough to save this film for me.      I think Paz Vega is beautiful; ever since I watch her perform in Sex and Lucia I have been smitten. My wife on the other hand has a completely opposite opinion: she thinks that Ms. Vega is ugly, period, something to do with thick eyebrows and a clef chin. And because I think she is worthy …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #109
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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Director: James L. Brooks
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Release Date: December 17, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: James L. Brooks
Runtime: 2hrs 10min
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