There's just something about being a single woman in your 30s that seems to be an endlessly fascinating subject for independent film. Writer/director Zoe Cassavetes, making her directorial debut here, doesn't exactly explore uncovered ground in her film Broken English, and yet, she somehow manages to put such a charming face on the subject matter that we don't really care. Parker Posey plays Nora, who, in her 30s, finds that nothing in her life has gone how she once thought it would. She majored in Fine Arts, thinking she would work in the art world; instead she works in a boutique hotel in a dismal and depressing little office as the manager of guest relations, kissing the backsides -- and, occasionally, the frontsides -- of VIPs to keep them happy. She thought she'd be married to a great guy and settled down with a family; instead, she hangs out with her married friends, and relentlessly dodges Glen, an annoying co-worker who clearly has a major crush on her.
Nora's best friend, Audrey (Drea de Matteo) is married to Nora's friend Mark, a director. Nora introduced them, and, of course, Nora's mom (Gena Rowlands, the director's mother) thinks Nora should have married Mark herself. Audrey and Mark have the perfect marriage, except for the minor point that Audrey is perfectly miserable. She hasn't, she confesses to Nora one night, gone to sleep without a drink or a sleeping pill in so long she can't remember. Nora laughs -- she hasn't either -- and this would all be a little too cutesy and self-absorbed if it didn't resonate with such stinging truth. The packed press screening audience got a chuckle out of that bit, in that sort of "yeah, I know what you mean" way. Nora, like many of us, coasts along on the ruts in her life, going to a job she doesn't really like just because, well, that's the thing you do, right? She dresses up and gets out occasionally, but her efforts are both half-hearted and sadly self-conscious.
When Audrey and Mark go out of town for a holiday weekend, Glen invites her to a party at his place (and invites her, and invites her, in that kind of creepy semi-stalker-guy way some guys have when they just don't get the signal that the other party has no interest). On the spur of the moment, though, Nora decides to show up at Glen's bash. She stays just long enough to be polite, but just as she's leaving she meets Glen's friend Julian (French actor Melvil Poupard), a handsome, debonair Frenchman who coaxes her to stay and have just one drink. Julian and Nora spend some magical days together, but then he has to return to France. He wants Nora to come with him, but she can't -- or won't. Will Nora stick it out in New York City and muddle through her life, hoping love will fall in her lap? Or will she take the biggest chance of her life?
In the hands of a lesser actress, this could have been a pretty average movie, but Posey puts Nora out there as she is, a mirror to every person in the audience who's every wanted to be loved and not found it, or found it, just maybe, only to let it walk away. It's a rather typical Posey role, and yet somehow I never tire of seeing her in them. Cassavetes is herself 36, and Posey 38, and you have to think that part of why this film feels so honest in so many of its moments is that both of them are calling on their own experiences in creating Nora as a character. The film does have one glaringly weak and predictable moment near the end (I think I heard the collective sound of a room full of critics' eyes rolling), which was unfortunate given the rest of the film, but not enough to impact its overall likability.