Values and Culture Seen Through Comedy

John ArmstrongCulture

Dvd_coerSometimes a movie gives us a humorous, but quite serious, overview of some pretty important cultural issues. Such is the case with the wonderful comedy Spanglish. John Clasky (Adam Sandler) is a devoted father with amazing culinary skills that land him one of the biggest jobs possible as a master chef. His family lives well and represents a great deal of what wealth affords to people in our culture. His wife (Cloris Leachman) is so into herself that you are not sure whether to laugh or cry at times. The great performance, however, is that of Flor (Paz Vega), a housekeeper who comes from Mexico with her daughter to start a new life in the U.S. (We are not told if she is legal or illegal in the movie.)

Flor eventually learns English and becomes wise to the values of upscale American families. She longs to protect her daughter and to help her get ahead, without compromising her values and simple roots. What ensues is a fight for the soul of Flor’s young daughter, as she discovers all the charms and excitement of life in America when faced with affluent, eccentric life in the burbs.

The story is told from the perspective of Flor’s daughter as she tells her story to the admissions office at Princeton University, some years after the events have taken place. Her hero, she reveals, is the very mother she struggled so much with as she sought to adapt to American culture. Paz Vega, as Flor, is simply superb. FlorThis lends a strong sense of direction to the film from the beginning. Be prepared to laugh, but also be prepared to think about things like values, culture and immigration. This is a very good comedy.

Spanglish is 131 minutes in length. It is rated PG-13.