on December 17, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
Sensitive and sophisticated, James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" is the best relationship movie in theatres this holiday season. The characters are exquisitely drawn and the performances delicately nuanced in this romance about unconsummated love based on the sexiest quality a parent can possess: love for one's children.

Flor (Paz Vega) speaks no English when she takes a job as a housekeeper for the Claskys, a well-to-do white family that lives on Los Angeles' posh Westside. John (Adam Sandler, recalling his dramatic turn in "Punch-Drunk Love") is a talented chef who would rather stay under the radar with a three-and-a-quarter star rating than a four. His wife Deb (Tea Leoni, all manic energy without sacrificing empathy) is a raging type-A whose recent layoff has thrust her into full-time motherhood, much to the chagrin of her funny, brilliant but full-figured daughter. When the Clasky clan rents a summer house on the beach, Flor is forced to move in with them with her 12-year-old daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce). Deb is immediately smitten with the bright young girl and takes her under her wing, pitting the women against each other in a battle for Cristina's character and soul while drawing John and Flor together through their mutual adoration of their kids.

Brooks has crafted a script that never cloys and eschews cliches for authentic developments that acknowledge that the only context in which John and Flor can--or will ever--relate is as employer and employee, white and Hispanic. Further, Spanish star Vega serves as a fresh alternative to Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz that allows the viewer a sense of discovery along with John and the rest of the Claskys. And Bruce, particularly in a highly charged scene in which she must translate complicated adult emotions between John and her mother, radiates with both innocence and maturity. Starring Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Paz Vega. Directed and written by James L. Brooks. Produced by James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai and Julie Ansell. A Columbia release. Comedy/Drama. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language. Running time: 129 min

Tags: Starring Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Directed, written by James L. Brooks. Produced by James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell, A Columbia release, Comedy Drama

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