Published on August 18th, 2005 | by Michelle Thomas0
Me And You And Everyone We Know
Cast: John Hawkes, Miranda July, Brandon Ratcliff, Miles Thompson, Ellen Geer
Please please please spare me from performance artists! My best friend teaches Time Based Media and in the name of art I have watched fish being barbecued to the accompaniment of a violin and seen a grown man (her boss) remove his clothes and stand on his head while a teenage pig sucked on the toe of my boot, and its sibling looked on in derision. Me and You and Everyone We Know, written and directed by performance artist July, is another piece of evidence that what works in one medium – performance does not always suit another – the linear storytelling needs of conventional moviemaking.
Richard (Hawkes) is a shoe salesman and a bit of a loser. His relationship with his wife has broken down and his two sons (Thompson and Ratcliff) are distant and cool with him. Richard wants his life to be exciting – he is, he claims, prepared for amazing things to happen. Of course Richard is as dull as mud and actually deeply conservative, so when something as insignificant as meeting a new woman happens, he panics.
In mitigation, the woman he meets is kooky – or just plain barking – Christine (July). An artist who drives ‘Eldercabs’ (she takes residents of an old people’s home shopping) for a living, Christine is deeply irritating and displays signs of incipient stalkerhood.
Despite having set his own hand alight in an attempt to impress them, Richard is still allowed to have his sons to stay. Their favourite pastime is hanging out in internet chatrooms, where Robby begins an anonymous online romance. In the meantime Peter finds himself the target of his teenage neighbours, keen to try out sexual techniques they’ve heard about.
Me and You… (I’m not typing out the whole title every time!) ‘s problems are exemplified by its title. It’s annoying. It’s like a film of two halves, one really enjoyable, real and funny, the other absolutely maddening, pretentious and naval gazing.
Let’s begin with the good.
All of the storylines involving the children, especially Robby, are great. Brandon Ratcliff is as fresh as a daisy and doesn’t seem to be acting. He has some of the best lines and it’s hilarious to watch his innocently naughty suggestions having quite an unexpected effect on an adult mind! Peter is undergoing his own initiation at the hands of the neighbourhood girls (Natasha Slayton, Najarra Townsend and Carlie Westerman), learning about sex and romance, while the girls themselves are discovering that they’re not as ready for adult relationships as they thought they were.
If only July had stuck to this side of the story, what a rich and rewarding seam she could have mined. But unfortunately we have to keep coming back to the tedious flirtation between her character and Richard. The production notes describe Christine as ‘spontaneous and captivating’ and July has, in casting herself as her heroine, fallen victim to her own hype. Christine hanging wistfully around the shoe department is just sad and creepy – she’s an adult, why doesn’t she just pretend to be buying some shoes and strike up a conversation?
The film is, essentially, about the triumph of hope over experience and explores E M Forster’s dictum ‘only connect’ – if these two lonely people can just make that leap, what possibilities await them? Unfortunately you realise they are probably lonely for a reason and actually fear them getting together – what sort of bewildered offspring might they produce?
And the shoes are just horrible.
Miranda July Interview