Overlooked Films on DVD: Broken English and Lonesome Jim

BROKEN ENGLISH

Broken English is the story of Nora [formidable, immensely talented Parker Posey], who finds herself stuck in a rut, both personally and professionally. Nora has become complacent and settled at her hotel job. She is beginning to delve into the Bell Jar after years of seeming to know what she wanted and now being at the age where she feels she should already be there. Date after date leads to further frustration until she meets a French man, Julien [Melvil Poupaud]. He might really like her or just be another guy leading her on. Is it a merely a charming façade or is he being honest with Nora?

Posey turns out a tour-de-force performance under the direction of Zoe Cassavetes. At times darkly reminiscent of Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Broken English does not look through rose-colored glasses but tackles Nora’s issues head-on. Her best friend Audrey [a solid performance by Drea de Matteo] is happily married and is supportive, understanding and concerned about her friend. Their conversations and connection are aptly real. Nora’s chemistry with Julien is palpable, enviable and genuine. The film does not gloss over anything from Nora’s morning-after bed head hair to her depressive, insecure moments. Nora and Audrey travel to Paris in hopes of finding Julien and Nora discovers herself, as cliché as that may sound.

Parker Posey, one of my favorites, is a brilliant actress. The film is raw, real and honest. Cassavetes’s spot on, direct, honest script captures this woman’s fears, disappointments and frustrations.

LONESOME JIM

Nothing screams of loneliness more than having to move in with your parents when you are almost 30-years-old. What a mark of failure it seems to be. As the 27-year-old Jim, Casey Affleck brilliant plays self-deprecating and wallowing in misery to the point that you cannot take your eyes off of him. Then you want to hug him and be his friend. He steals your heart. His vulnerability. His hopelessness. His ennui. The aspiring writer returns home to Indiana after failing in New York. Lonesome Jim is an honest, realistic portrait of a mid-mid-life crisis and its often funny, often sad effects.

He ends up working at the family factory when his depressed brother (Kevin Corrigan) is hospitalized. Jim has an overprotective mom (Mary Kay Place) who makes cookies and called him her “pretty boy,” and apathetic father (Seymour Cassel) and a druggie uncle. When he meets Anika, a nurse at the local hospital (Liv Tyler in yet another sweet, understanding single mom role) , he starts to move away from his melancholies and to re-examine how he fits into the world. Anika is non-judgmental, caring, and empathetic. Everything a guy could want. Especially a guy in Jim’s precarious situation. He could easily just flounder or he could really delve into the depths of darkness. Or he could accept just being in the moment as Anika encourages him to do.

Jim: I sort of came back to have a nervous breakdown.
Anika: What’s wrong with you?
Jim: Chronic despair.

Director Steve Buscemi does a great job of digging into people’s souls. Of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary little moment to examine, to analyze, to dwell in. Lonesome Jim is a gem of a film.

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