Me and You and Everyone We Know

| June 22, 2005

th intimate, ensemble-driven character pieces (think Sideways, Garden State, or anything Wes Anderson). Today’s cinematic innovators are that hybrid known as “the filmmaker” – they both write and direct their movies, and often generate quite a niche fan base doing so. Indeed, these auteurs often serve as a much-needed antidote to the recycled TV show-turned-movie, or movie-turned-remake, or even song-turned-movie, that’s been saturating multiplexes of late (often when the source material had no business being revisited in the first place – yes, I’m talking to you, Willy Wonka). Miranda July is the latest to enter this filmmaker pantheon, and though her movie, Me And You And Everyone We Know, is not quite as polished as the work of some of her colleagues who’ve been at it longer, it fits right in as a welcome breath of fresh air from the stifling, regurgitated fare of late.
The film is an ensemble piece whose characters are all, in some way, confronting loneliness and the compulsion to find a personal connection with the world around them. The central character, Christine (played by July), is so hungry for love that she uses performance art to enact her fantasies, reciting both parts of the passionate dialogue of make-believe lovers. In addition to seeking her connection in the form of her art, she reaches out to the world vis a vis Richard (John Hawkes), a misguided, recently divorced shoe salesman and father of two boys. Richard, for his part, is intrigued by Christine’s bizarre forwardness and persistence, but is slow in warming up to it. Christine is also an Eldercab driver, and through this finds herself thrust into the lives of two septuagenarians as they embark on the romance of their lives. Peter (Miles Thompson), Richard’s oldest son at 14, finds himself somehow becoming the confidante of several neighborhood girls, and the sexual guinea pig of two of them, as his six year old brother, Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), engages in an illicit internet affair with someone who may or may not be a man, but is definitely turned on by Robby’s fascination with poop.
The film is light on plot, choosing instead to focus on the characters as they navigate a somewhat hyper-real world of Spartan suburbia. The visceral quality of the film, with its spare music of Fisher Price-sounding instruments and long, naturalistic takes (cinematographer Chuy Chavez also shot Chuck & Buck), almost has an under-water aesthetic to it. The characters that populate the movie have a slightly exaggerated quality and seem to exist in a world all their own, where they only encounter each other. Some make substantial emotional journeys, as with Richard, while others complete mini-arcs – they have no life-changing moment of catharsis, but perhaps open themselves up to the world just a little bit more, and that’s a good start. The scene in which Robby finally meets his cyber-lover face to face is simultaneously one of the funniest and most tender and hopeful moments in the film.
The acting is strong across the board, and the several kids who star are particularly impressive. July’s wide-eyed and innocent, though slightly off-balanced, Christine strikes the perfect chord – at different times in the film she can seem either like an overgrown, strange little girl, or a self-assured woman filled with very adult longings, grasping at a way to appease them. Hawkes gives a great performance, capturing Richard’s frustration and confusion as he flounders at making a connection with sons who often seem more assured and adult than him. Thompson and Ratcliffe are comfortable with the camera in a way that perhaps only kids can be; the silences in their understated performances are some of the most revealing moments of the film. Carlie Westerman as Sylvie, a neighborhood closet neurotic who is well on her way to Stepford at the ripe age of eight, rounds out the richly talented roster of young actors perfectly.
Thematically, Me And You fits right in with many of the above-mentioned filmmakers’ work, but July’s feature debut has a style all its own. Pacing moves along in stops and starts at times, often giving the movie a feeling of being several vignettes strung together, rather than a self-contained whole – but in some ways this coarseness is part of its charm. Where films like Neil LaBute’s Your Friends And Neighbors or Dylan Kidd’s Roger Dodger use aggression and abrasiveness to make comments on the nature of relationships to great effect, July’s approach is softer, more yielding – more feminine. Her style emphasizes not the pointed nature of humanity and its often sharp angles, but rather the sloping curves of it. She observes her characters for long moments which may have gone unnoticed or omitted in the hands of others. Whether or not you find this style gratifying or profound has everything to do with your level of patience with, and appreciation for, the mundane – if you’re willing, some extraordinary moments lurk in wait.
Me And You And Everyone We Know won the audience prize at Sundance, and the Camera d’Or Award at Cannes, given to the filmmaker with the best first film. It was released in New York on June 17, and is set to expand to other cities in the coming weeks.

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