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Me and You and Everyone We Know
Director: Miranda July
Cast: Miranda July, John Hawkes
uirk for quirk’s sake is the hipster-film motto. Peccadilloes with purpose, quirk vaguely in the service of art—of, say, characterization or mood—is hardly fashionable these days. But the calculated idiosyncrasy of Wes Anderson’s disciples, or, worse, the affectedly affectless Solondz syndrome, has worn out its welcome. Perhaps it’s my shrinking appetite for porcelain cinema, preciously hollow festival fodder. Or perhaps something’s seriously amiss, with both trendy indie films and high-gloss Hollywood potboilers, each in their own way, worshiping side by side at the altar of surfaces.
Me and You and Everyone We Know is a fish out of water. Its eccentricities are born of deep loneliness. Where other films are coolly detached, their directors’ tongues bayoneting their own cheeks, Me and You... glows with rose-hued warmth from the first frame, with its polymath architect, Miranda July, committed to a sincere surrealism. (The winsome, pillowy synths prove an ideal score.) Nailing the auteur hat trick—writer/director/protag—on her first try, July has conjured a dreamily impressionistic Everytown, populated by the isolated, where the erotic and the existential, like estranged lovers, coexist uneasily in the collective suburban unconscious. And while performance artists, like July, are easy targets for the charge of self-absorption, Me and You... forms a tender rejoinder to solipsism. Beneath the discursive, loose-knit plot, the film’s interior logic makes the case for connection—among family members, between lovers, with everyone and everything—in the face of modern life’s allergy to community.
July’s alter ego, Christine, is a forlorn video artist, both subject and object of her art. While shuttling the town’s elderly to make ends meet, Christine struggles to infiltrate the soulless fortress of gallery culture. Reflexively commenting on both art-world myopia (or astigmatism) and July’s own film, a curator reveals the quality she seeks in her selections: that a piece accords with the zeitgeist, that it could not have been made in another time. When, for instance, she sifts through images embodying the digital age, the first slide is a teddy bear.
The Big Hair Brigade
Enter Richard: a frazzled, vulpine man newly separated from his wife, hypnotized by a bird outside his window, preparing to set his own hand on fire. He resorts to ritual self-immolation, it seems, to stamp the day into his two sons’ memories. After chauffeuring someone to the department store, Christine encounters, and is quickly smitten by, Richard, who works as a shoe salesman there. Shoes, he believes, can change lives; Christine is proof. Stenciling “Me” and “You” on the two pink pumps bought from Richard, Christine narrates a coy tête-à-tête in her bedroom.
Awarded occasional custody, Richard witnesses his sons wile away the lion’s share of his time with them online. But eventually the boys stumble upon disfigured Eros. Older neighborhood girls compete orally on the teenaged Peter. His younger brother Robby, all of six, gallivants across chat rooms into a coprophiliac date. When Robby meets his date, a middle-aged woman, on a park bench, she kisses him ruefully, and they part ways.
"So you're a one-armed retail salesman? Jackpot!"
Curious, enigmatic images and symbols are legion, embedded even in the gravely coded dialogue. Early in the movie, a doomed goldfish arcs miraculously, from car to car, on the highway. Christine recites its last rites—testimony to July’s faith in the worth of all living things, and our interconnectedness. In another scene, a deserted sidewalk is remapped as a relationship metaphor, the history of their hypothetical romance stretched across a city block. As Richard and Christine stroll down the street, they turn literal signposts into a figurative ones.
July’s inspiration came, in her own words, from “the longing I carried around as a child, longing for the future, for someone to find me, for magic to descend upon my life and transform everything.” The film drew also from “how this longing progressed as I became an adult, slightly more fearful, more contorted, but no less fantastically hopeful.” This evolution of longing is central to Me and You: the anxieties of growing up are always buoyed by optimism.
Me and You...< is disorienting in a way recent films aren’t. It is a wistful parade of extreme gestures, a document of innocence lost and recovered, of vulgarly loveless sex, and awakenings stripped of romanticizing. Sundance jurors were on the mark: July exhibits in Me and You... an “Original Artistic Vision” at once deeply private, unfurling one individual’s fresh take on the world, and broadly public, groping at universal subjects. Above all, Me and You... is about youth, loneliness, and their bittersweet intersection. And its hushed beauty comes from July’s unblinking, childlike angle of approach: freedom from irony, a wide-eyed guilelessness, curiosity paired with courage, a native humility before big questions. She is counseling us: the key to bridging our post-industrial chasms is hidden in our youth.
By: Roque Strew
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