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Broken English

Broken English


A review of Parker Posey's new romantic comedy, in competition this year at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival

Parkour (or, Free Running): a physical discipline in which participants careen from wall to wall, obstacle to obstacle, in a dazzling display of human pyrotechnics. Most recently seen to its best effect in the film Casino Royale.

Parker (or, Posey): an actress who careens from word to word, syllable to syllable, in a dazzling display of screwball pyrotechnics. Most recently seen (in the film's best effect) in Superman Returns.

Why isn't Parker Posey cast in more romantic comedies? I don't mean in supporting roles - though she was the bright spot in Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail, with her hilarious, self-obsessed delivery ("When I get out of here? I am having my eyes. Lasered."). I mean the big enchilada, the female lead, the kind of part they hand out with impunity to television actresses but keep just out of reach for an indie darling like Posey. It's hard to imagine a good reason for that, as Posey's got gamine sweetness in spades, plus the ability to elevate a pro forma chick flick line like, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I find a nice guy?" into something authentic.

This is a good thing, as that's an actual line from Zoe Cassavetes's Broken English, a slight, disappointing romantic comedy confoundingly playing in competition at this year's festival. The idea of Posey in a quirky Sundance romance raises hopes for a more off-center take on these things than one usually gets, but aside from the indie rhythms in this film's editing, the beats here are all the same. Parker is a dissatisfied single woman in the city, envious of her friends' seemingly perfect marriage and under the thumb of her clucking mother (Gena Rowlands), who is constantly asking - as clucking mothers in this genre tend to do - "Have you met anyone yet?"

As it happens, Parker is meeting plenty of someones, from a narcissistic actor (Justin Theroux, in the movie's most enjoyable turn) to a French smoothie (Melvil Poupaud), but nothing seems to stick. The Parisian stands the best chance, but that's if Parker can let down her defenses (and her overreliance on self-medicating) enough to let him in. Of course, when Parker impulsively quits her job and flies to Paris to find the man, anyone well-versed in the works of Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers will have a sense of how this plays out. The proceedings here are pretty slack, but even in a more subdued mode than usual, Posey shines. Made up, adorned in Marc Jacobs, and alone in her apartment, you'll wonder how anyone - least of all, Hollywood - could leave this girl in need of a good suitor.

Advocate Magazine - Gio BenitezAdvocate Channel - Queer Cuts

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Kyle Buchanan