Monday, March 9, 2009

Parker Posey: Broken English


Parker Posey does a rare thing in Broken English (2007): she brings back the familiar elements of her onscreen presence that made her such an appealing personality in the first place and then she expands them. Her performance in this film is a thing of beauty. I kept being reminded of how much I enjoyed Ms. Posey's past work and was also marveling at what a mature and expressive actress she had become -- how different she now seemed.

Sure, there are moments -- notably a cocktail party sequence where she meets Julien (Melvil Poupaud) -- where the old Parkey Posey surfaces; the caustic, almost abrasive Posey briefly makes an appearance and her character makes the rounds, dismissing one guy with nary a glance to order a drink after he says she was "kind of pretty."

But the thing that is so surprising about her performance is the vulnerability she brings to the part; I kept asking myself: "Who else could play this role?" Maybe a younger Julianne Moore? Maybe.

How does a subtle, smart, funny, and touching performance like this not get an Oscar nod?

The sequence where Nora (Posey) seems to want to kiss Julien but does not want to let herself kiss him is just magical, economically revealing quite a bit about Nora's character and mindset.

Any faults I have with the film are with the other, less developed characters around Nora -- including Julien -- but those hardly matter as the film is a character portrait of one woman and not so much a romance as the previews would have you believe (though those elements are there, for sure).

This was only director Zoe Cassavetes' second feature and I'm impressed: the family pedigree seems to be have rubbed off.