Adam Sandler shows he's no one-trick pony as a celebrity chef trapped in an airless marriage with Tea Leoni's self-centred flake. The arrival of Mexican illegal immigrant Flor (Paz Vega) and her daughter provide the family with a much-needed bitter dose of reality. Sublimely written and acted, this is a far from run-of-the-mill domestic drama from As Good As It Gets director James L Brooks.
James L Brooks
Spanglish is the language hybrid of Spanish and English spoken by nearly forty million Latinos living in the United States.
Mexican illegal immigrant Flor (Vega) and her six-year-old daughter have been living in a Los Angeles barrio for years until she has to cross the language barrier.
A lack of cash forces her to get a job with celebrity chef John Clasky (Sandler) and his self-centred flake of a wife Deborah (Leoni) as a home help.
She also has to look after the couple's children, including Bernice (Sarah Steele), a plump daughter undermined by her mother's obsessive body fascism.
She finds an ally in Flor...but it's her easy-going, well-meaning dad who finds himself attracted to the unintelligible maid's innate decency.
Who wouldn't, faced with a wife whose relationship advice is to insist on "reading off the same page"... just as long as she selects the book.
After a routine beginning, this sublimely written romantic comedy (sort of) turns from predictable Hollywood product into something that you might actually believe.
Leoni shows a rarely displayed comedy talent, breathing life into the college sweetheart who has now descended in a needy maelstrom of neuroses and manipulation.
Sandler may find it difficult to shake off his trademark goofiness but he's likeably shy while Deborah's live-in alcoholic mum Clorish Leachman gets all the good lines.
"Lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense," she tells her straying daughter before swigging another bucket of Chardonnay.
Add Flor's daughter's seduction by the WASPish lifestyle of the Clasky's and you get an authentic frisson in a poignant plot that doesn't go where you imagine it would.
If you're susceptible to a bit of emotional realism in your movies, Spanglish speaks your language.