American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
First shot, a closeup: Parker Posey. Next shots, mostly closeups. She smokes, she regards her face in the mirror, she does her hair and gets ready to go to work. She captures perfectly that way women have of arming themselves against the merciless scrutiny of the world. Does any woman, looking in the mirror, think of herself as beautiful?
What Posey brings to this sequence is something I've often felt while watching her movies, even the incomprehensible ones like "Fay Grim." She stands poised between serene beauty and throwing a shampoo bottle at the mirror. She always looks great, and she always seems dubious and insecure. She can make half her mouth curl into a reluctant smile. But when she fully smiles, she's radiant. She is well cast for "Broken English," because her character, Nora Wilder, needs precisely that in-between quality.
In some seasons, she falls instantly in love. In others, she sinks into depression. The perfect man comes along and hurts her cruelly. The movie, written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes (daughter of director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands), is about a woman with a knack for trusting untrustworthy men. She dates an actor (Justin Theroux) and a nice normal guy (Josh Hamilton), and both times confides to her closest friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo) that this guy might be the one, and both times she is crushingly wrong.
Then at a party she meets Julien (Melvil Poupaud), a French guy who seems too good to be true. Maybe that's where the story breaks down, if only because he is too good to be true. It's like he went to a feminist training academy, to learn how to treat a woman with gentleness, warmth and perfect sexual tact. He has to return to Paris. Quel dommage. She says she will join him there.