Grade: C-

One supposes Zoe Cassavetes’ debut film is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it’s neither very romantic nor particularly funny. Or you might consider it a character study, but for the fact that it doesn’t have much character. “Broken English” is limp little piece about a thirtysomething woman searching for love that’s heretofore eluded her. And its attraction will probably elude you.

Parker Posey, the darling of independent film (and she’s starred in plenty of awful ones), plays Nora Wilder, a sad-faced, unattached “guest relations specialist” at a New York hotel who envies the supposedly perfect marriage of her best friend Audrey (Drea de Matteo) to a man (Tim Guinee) who clearly worships her. At the couple’s anniversary, her thoughtless mother (played by her real-life mom, Gena Rowlands, doing a poor Lauren Bacall imitation) bemoans her daughter’s failure to find a beau, which sends poor Nora into a deeper funk. To make matters worse, her date with a hotel guest, a “cool” actor (Justin Theroux) proves a one-night bust despite her hopes.

After thirty minutes of this single-girl blues stuff—the only usual sitcom scene we’re spared is the one in which Nora sits depressed in front of a TV, eating ice cream straight out of the pint carton with a spoon—she goes to a party thrown by a geeky co-worker and meets a free-spirited French fellow named Julien (Melvil Poupaud), with whom she hits it off. For the next half-hour we watch them talk and talk some more in the fashion of bad Gallic movies until he has to return home, leaving Nora more depressed than ever.

But our heroine wakes up and decides to follow him to Paris, which she does accompanied by Audrey, who—surprise, surprise!—is actually dissatisfied with her marriage, contrary to appearances. But Nora has lost Julien’s phone number (!) and can’t find him. Instead she talks some more with a few French guys she meets during her search—three of them in a coffee shop who discourse on their difficulties with girls, and an older man in a bar who sagely informs her that before she can find love with another, she must learn to love herself. And then she prepares to go home, wiser perhaps but sadder too, until on the ride to the airport whom should she run into but…well, you know.

This is utter puffery of the sort you might tolerate in a cable-ready dramedy series but is woefully out of its element on the big screen. It certainly isn’t helped by Posey’s mannered, irritating performance (or maybe it’s just that the character is irritating and Posey embodies her all too well), by Poupaud’s strenuous effort to be charming, by de Matteo’s pouty turn, by Theroux’s failed imitation of a big screen star, or by Rowland’s effort to play the pushy mama. (Cameos by people like Peter Bogdanovich and Roy Thinnes don’t add much, either.) The threadbare production gives it all a grainy look that makes it hard even to enjoy the Parisian locations.

Whatever the title is supposed to mean is, shall we say, “Lost in Translation,” a film whose seriocomic tone this one seems to be aiming at but misses by a mile. In view of the movies made by both Zoe and her brother Nick, perhaps we should conclude that their late father John’s directorial talent may have skipped at least one generation.