Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MOVIES: Me and You and Everyone We Know

I've rarely seen a movie as confounding as Me and You and Everyone We Know. One the one hand, I found it to be tremendously beautiful and sad and charming and wise and powerful and original. On the other, in parts it's unsettling, even disturbing, to the point where I would hesitate to recommend it to certain people.

The film mixes the stories of many people together, but primarily it's about Christine (writer/director Miranda July), a driver for "Elder Cab" and a would-be video performance artist, and Richard (John Hawkes, Sol from Deadwood), a shoe salesman recently separated from his wife, who's trying to make the best of joint custody of his two sons in his new, small apartment. The budding relationship between the two of them is bittersweet, hesitant, awkward, and very real and touching. There is a scene in which the two of them walk together one block's length, where they imagine that the length of their walk represents the length of their (as yet non-existent) relationship together. It's a masterpiece of a scene. If for nothing else, I'll remember this film a long, long time for this one flawlessly crafted moment.

But there are elements to the film that I know would make some people uncomfortable; they even made me uncomfortable, a bit. There are a number of underaged characters in the film who are involved in sexual activities to one degree or another -- nothing too explicit; it's not Kids -- but still, it's enough to throw the film into an area I'm not sure it needed to go. There are two teen girls who explore a potential sexual relationship with Richard's co-worker; there is Richard's teen son, on whom the girls practice their "technique"; and there is Richard's 8-year-old son, who unwittingly pursues a sexy chat relationship his older brother has initiated as a joke online. There are elements of humor and truth to all these stories, and they're handled in places with surprising gentleness resulting in unexpected outcomes, but they're definitely not for the overly sensitive.

I think the good far outweighs the potentially uncomfortable in the film. For example, at the beginning of the film, as Richard and his wife are splitting up, Richard desperately searches for an act that will symbolize the end of the relationship, but also let his sons know that life will go on. He decides to perform a trick for them that he watched his uncle do: he douses his hand in lighter fluid and sets it on fire. Unfortunately, he forgot that his uncle used (safe) rubbing alcohol, not (dangerous) lighter fluid, and so winds up with a bandage on his hand for most of the film. This leads to the following exchange between Richard and Christine:

--How'd you do that?
--Oh, well... do you want the long version or the short version?
--The long one.
--I was trying to save my life and it didn't work.
--What's the short one?
--I burned it.
There's something to the frank simplicity, the purity of that dialogue that absolutely knocks me out. And the delivery of it by these two actors is captivating.

The progression between the two characters is unlike anything I've seen on film before. As are most of the characters in this film, and their respective relationships with one another. And I was enthralled with every single one of them. Me and You kept me entranced with discovery for most of its duration. If you don't automatically reject it for the reasons I mentioned above, I'm confident you'll enjoy discovering it as well.

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