Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" tells the story of a Mexican woman and her daughter who travel all the way to Los Angeles to bring sanity to a crazy Anglo family. When I mention that the father of the family is played by Adam Sandler and is not its craziest member, you will see she has her work cut out for her. And yet the movie is not quite the sitcom the setup seems to suggest; there are some character quirks that make it intriguing.
Consider Deborah Clasky, the mother of the Los Angeles family. She is played by Tea Leoni like an explosion at the multiple personalities factory. She is kind, enlightened and politically correct. She is also hysterical, manic and a drama queen whose daily life is besieged by one crisis after another. I am not sure this character has any connection to a possible human being, but as a phenomenon, it's kind of amazing; Deborah doesn't just go over the top, she waves goodbye as she disappears into cuckoo-land. Somehow Leoni is able to play Deborah without frothing at the mouth, and indeed makes her kind of lovable.
One who loves her is her husband John (Sandler), although he treacherously observes "I'm running out of excuses for the woman of the house." John is a chef -- in fact, according to the New York Times, the finest chef in America. You would therefore expect him to be a perfectionist tyrant with anger management problems, but in fact he's basically just that sweet Sandler boy, and at one point he is asked, "Could you stop being so stark-raving calm?"
Deborah's mother Evelyn (Cloris Leachman) is a practicing alcoholic whose rehearsals start at noon. She's a former jazz singer, now relegated to resident Golden Girl, sending in zingers from the sidelines. Her drinking pays off in the last act, however, when she sobers up (no one notices) and gives her daughter urgent advice.