Monday, 4 January 2010

Do You Like Baloney?

Looking purely at where it has come from, Me And You And Everyone We Know should be quite an irritating film. Writer/director/lead actress Miranda July is a performance artist. Doesn’t that just instantly make you cringe? An auteur film by a performance artist. Very few words have as much of an ability to cause automatic tremors in my wincing muscles as those do. It sounds like it would reek of self-indulgence.

However, it doesn’t. At all. It has been on my radar since its release (something about it made me want to see it when it was on release in Australia, though I obviously never did. It has stuck with me, however. Probably because it’s a great title.)

July plays Christine, an artist (funnily enough) trying to break through as she drives cabs for the elderly. John Hawkes plays Richard, a shoe salesman with two children, recently separated from his wife and brought into contact with Christine when an elderly charge of hers comes in to buy shoes. As she continues to make her art and try and get it into galleries, Christine also finds herself curiously in love with Richard but entirely unsure as to how to go about netting him.

Then there are the children. The elder one, Peter (Miles Thompson), is going through the early awkward years of adolescence, discovering sexuality for the first time but without really anyone to bounce these newly forming ideas off. His younger brother, Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), is the kind of incredibly precocious child that you just know would ask the kind of questions that would initially baffle adults before causing them to laugh patronisingly simply because they have no real concept of how to deal with the depths of their psyche they would have to delve into to come to terms with the meaning of his otherwise simple questions. He’s that kind of kid that sort of creeps you out, because he seems to know more about life at six then you do at sixty. Nothing seems out of bounds, nothing seems to bizarre for his early intelligence, and it is quite beguiling.

The story of these four going through an otherwise normal existence is dealt with beautifully. July’s script is full of lines and moments of dialogue, silence and visual imagery that perfectly bring across the fears and hopes of all of the characters without ever really plumbing the world of twee. It’s simple but it’s perfect. A city block as a metaphor for life is profound at the same time as it is ultimately quite familiar, but the look of fear in the eyes of the character, mixed with the hopes of desire and fulfillment brings it up a level. Horribly inappropriate sexual notes written to two teenage girls and plastered in the front window of an apartment are simultaneously creepy and touching. The sight of Richard attempting to hide a graffitied picture in a bush at the front of his house before Christine comes to visit is comic, yes, but completely identifiable - it’s a moment of desperation in which he feels that he needs to hide this ‘mess’, and the eventual landing place of the framed photograph of a bird in a tree is remarkably and simply effulgent.

A very special movie, I’d liken it in tone to Once, another simple but effective meditation on romance and desire. 4 stars and a high recommendation.

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