Me and You and Everyone We Know (USA/UK; 90 min.)


directed by: Miranda July
starring: John Hawkes; Miranda July; Carlie Westerman
Me and You and Everyone We Know
 
Bruce says: "Miranda July’s ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW is the delightful film chosen to open the new Independent Film Center in New York on the site of the old Waverly Theater. July's career has included video and performance art and her film is influenced by both. As a director she does not impose a lot of structure on her material. Telling several interconnected stories at once, she lets her stories flow, taking their own direction as they connect and disconnect with one another.

"The two central characters are Richard (John Hawkes), a shoe salesman at the mall who has recently separated from his wife and Christine (Miranda July). Richard has two children who share the bedroom in his new bachelor apartment while he sleeps in the living room on the sofa bed. The kids are always on the computer and have discovered hot sex chat rooms. They have managed to connect with a woman who they’ve really turned on with their imaginative dirty talk. Richard works with Andrew (Brad William Henke) who fantasizes about making it with underage girls and is freaked out when two teenagers in the neighborhood come on to him. Christine is a video artist who is trying to get the attention of the contemporary art museum by dropping off her video. in person. The director of the museum is the mother of a lonely pre-teen named Sylvie (Carlie Westerman) who is trying to befriend Richard’s two sons.

"The film opens with Richard setting his hand on fire to impress his boys as they watch him in the yard from a window at their mother’s house. Next we see Richard, hand all bandaged, helping ladies try on shoes. When Christine walks into the shoe department and sees Richard it is love at first sight. Richard is aware of the chemistry but he is so shell-shocked over the disintegration of his marriage that he cannot respond in kind. So it becomes a girl chases boy story. And Christine is relentless.

"The film has some very imaginative scenes. One involves a goldfish in a bag on top of a car on the freeway. Another involves Christine doing a performance art piece about her and Richard meeting and growing old together. As she and Richard walk down the street together she uses the street as a metaphor for the vicissitudes of life. The video she leaves at the museum has an open appeal for the viewer to call her once the she gets that far along. It is similar to the old trick used in school term papers, 'if you get this far underline this sentence.' Shoes become incorporated into Christine's video art.

"When I asked her which directors had most influenced her, I expected Ms. July to respond with Allison Anders or Nicole Holofcener. She cited Todd Solondz and Hal Hartley. She finds their originality appealing. Her characters are similar to characters in all of these directors' films, as each is dwelling in isolation experiencing a profound loneliness as the rest of the world spins dizzily around them. July refuses to dwell on the dark side for she finds humour in everyone's particular predicament. ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW is very crisp and well edited. There is fine ensemble acting. Mr. Hawkes is particularly good in his woebegone role. 4.5 cats"

 
Michael says: "What a delightful surprise, and a contender for my top movie of the year so far! Miranda July’s ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW is a sublime, skillfully-written, freshly acted, shockingly original film about… well, me and you and everyone we know. Unlike most films, ME AND YOU paints a wonderfully refreshing look at contemporary life. The basic story follows a lonely shoe salesman (John Hawkes) who is separated from his wife and sharing custody of his two young sons. After a chance encounter with an eccentric performance artist (Miranda July), the two enter an awkward courtship that moves in fits and starts before ultimately connecting. While focusing on this couple, July’s story also spends time with children and the elderly, touching upon issues that effect all ages in today’s world.

"Miranda July is a fresh new talent coming from a performance artist and writing background. Her script crackles with humor and originality, warmly interspersed with moments of surprising beauty. I was reminded of some of Hal Hartley’s best films without the mannered dialogue. I think the writing was the strongest element, and it served the film well. The dialogue was a lovely combination of natural speech and scripted musings. The gently absurd situations that arise pinpoint July’s gentle worldview. July also directs ME AND YOU with a spare efficiency and an artist’s eye. Each shot is carefully thought out, yet it all seems too natural. To complete her hat trick, July’s portrayal of Christine, whether semi-autobiographical or not, brings warmth and charm to an awkward, offbeat character. Her timing is strong encouraging laughter at some pretty odd places.

"All of the performances are terrific, but I must mention the biggest kick I got out of ME AND YOU: a strong supporting role from Canadian actress Tracy Wright. A frequent collaborator of Don McKellar’s, Tracy has made memorable appearances in ‘Twitch City,’ LAST NIGHT, THE FIVE SENSES, WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING, and CHILDSTAR to name a few. Her portrayal of the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art is a lovely blend of hard-edged bitterness and desperate loneliness. Wright captures every nuance of the character where combined with the smart script, can make the simple act of glancing through her mug tree a laugh out loud moment.

"I loved ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW. Please go see it. 5 cats"

 
Scot says: "If you loved this movie as much as I did, call the number on your screen and just say 'macaroni.' Then hang up. 5 cats"
 
Thom says: "I saw this film as a preview last week and I heartily concur with Scot & Michael! I gave it 5 CATS as well! Truly a delightful experience. John Hawkes, fresh from his marvelous turns in the great HBO series DEADWOOD, is perfect here as well. One of the best things about this film is director July getting us to laugh at topics that we'd usually never dream of laughing at. Brava!!!!!!!!!"
 
Diane says: Another 5 cats for this film about false and true attempts at intimacy. Great faces in this film, wonderfully fresh dialogue (with a couple of exceptions). Miranda July is the real Amelie. Michael is right about Tracy Wright showing her chops in the two-second 'mug tree' shot. But let's not forget Brandon Ratcliff's (as six-year-old Robby) explanation of his family's chore wheel. He certainly won my heart over.

"On the downside: almost-ex-wife's character was not developed enough, and Elder Cab customer was perhaps one story line too many.... But ME AND YOU is as charming as ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS, as squeamish-making as HAPPINESS, and as inventive as... what?"

 
Hilary says: "I'm still puzzling over this one a bit -- I loved it except for Miranda July. She's just too damn consciously precious. However, clearly she can write and direct because everyone else was great. Especially enjoyed Richard (John Hawkes from the highly addictive 'Deadwood') and his sons.

"I would offer EVERYONE 5 cats, but give YOU only 1, Miranda."
 
Bob says: "I would like to see July play a character who’s not so overtly quirky, just to see how she manages it, but I have to say that I liked the film very much, and thought that for the most part her character contributed well to the overall feel of it.

"That bit with the fish was such a beautiful metaphor, and the 'back and forth forever' bit…. Damn.

"What was the symbol? Something like (( <> ))"

 
Chris says: "About ten minutes into Miranda July’s remarkable debut feature, a man and his young daughter have just bought a goldfish. As they take off in their SUV, however, the man has absent-mindedly left the fish (in a tiny plastic baggie full of water) on top of the vehicle. On the highway, the film’s central character, Christine (July) notices this and conspires with her co-passenger to do what they can with their car to impossibly save this fish. The scene plays like something out of a silent-era slapstick short worthy of Chaplin and Keaton, only tinged with melancholy. Eventually, Christine realizes the brutal limitations of this small crisis, but her co-passenger assures her, 'Well, at least we’re all in this together.'

"ME AND YOU… takes this phrase to heart as it casts a gaze on about a dozen characters in a nondescript California town. All of them are lonely to some degree, attempting to make connections and find friendship, solace, and even love in each other’s company. If this were a big budget studio picture, these acts would be made to seem simple, unchallenging. Conflicts would arise, but characters would logically work their way through them and everyone would feel fulfilled by the final credits. To an extent, this does happen for a few people, but July’s more interested in exploring the messy, topsy-turvy, true-to-life ways in which they get there.

"At the head of this ensemble are Christine and Richard (John Hawkes). Christine is an eccentric, impulsive performance artist whose work consists of her imagining and recording conversations belonging to people in still photographs. She also works for ElderCab, a geriatric transport service. When she takes her client Michael (Hector Elias) shopping, she meets Richard (John Hawkes), a department store shoe salesman who has recently separated from his wife. After a second trip to the store, Christine meets up with Richard as he’s walking to his car. After another block, they’ll need to head off in opposite directions to reach their vehicles. Bashfully grasping to make conversation with someone she really likes, she compares the walk to the lifespan of a relationship, and how it will end when they inevitably have to go their separate ways. The sequence is intricate and surprising, full of deftly shifting tones and pregnant but important pauses. It almost seems like something out of a novel, until in a startling, heartbreaking turn, one of them acknowledges that it is, and tells the other that life really isn't this simple.

"Richard has two sons: teenaged Peter (Miles Thompson) and younger Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), who divide their time between their mother’s home and their father’s new, cramped apartment. Without them, ME AND YOU… might seem more ordinary—just another indie romantic comedy. But July either has a knack for getting natural performances out of her child actors or finding particularly (and refreshingly) genuine ones: especially Ratcliff, possibly the most unaffected indie kid actor since Raven Goodwin (LOVELY AND AMAZING).

"As Peter and Robby spend time at their father’s chatting on the internet or walking to and from school, we get to know the rest of the film’s ensemble: Heather (Natasha Slayton) and Rebecca (Najarra Townsend), two of Peter’s classmates who develop an obsession with Richard’s adult neighbor and co-worker, Andrew (Brad William Henke), who is sweet-natured but perhaps too willing to take chances; and Sylvie, a quiet ten-year-old neighbor girl with a design for life and an active, touching imagination. There’s also Nancy (Tracy Wright), a gallery curator who is less assured than she initially seems; she also has links to more than one of the film’s other characters.

"Some of these subplots flower to conclusive connections; others are left somewhat unresolved, revealing something about that person’s behavior and not much more. But July loves all of her characters: even Heather and Rebecca, arguably the least sympathetic, are drawn with much more depth and humaneness than their 'roles' in the narrative would suggest. At times July (herself a performance artist) risks being overly precious or uncomfortably obscure, but when a connection or two are finally made near the end, they suddenly, excitingly feel earned and almost emotionally overwhelming.

"ME AND YOU… is a primarily a comedy, laced with offbeat humor and a vision of life depicted in all of its glorious absurdity. As comedies go, however, it’s uncommonly reflective and delicate. July’s carefully and lovingly constructed world is one where an unanticipated phone call (with a voice saying the word 'macaroni' and hanging up) is incredibly profound. It’s a world where hopes, desires and dreams continually butt heads with reason and actualities, but in the end, you get a sense that there’s room for both sides. In fact, any world would seem incomplete without both. Early in the film, Richard says to Andrew, 'I know I’m ready for great things to happen to me.' By evidence of this delightful, powerful film, July's already there. 5 cats

 
Tom says: "Easily the best movie soundtrack since GEORGE WASHINGTON.

"Otherwise: Smart in parts, dissapointing in other parts. Miranda July is my first actress crush since Mira Sorvino seems to have fallen off the Earth.

"I wish this movie stayed even, but the parts I didn't like stayed in mind more than the parts I did like...

".all this relief, it's the oddest thing.

))<>(("

 
Rick says: "Given that everyone else has expressed nothing but delight about this film, I feel compelled to be the contrarian.

"ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW: Rubbish. Utter foolishness, cutesy cutesy nonsense meant to appeal to the same types who fawn over babies. I wonder, do the same people who like this film like that reprehensible Jim Carey movie last year whose name, thankfully, I don't remember? You know, the one that featured the Charles River that clearly wasn't the Charles River.

"I was completely disinterested in the romance between the two adult characters in the film. Uninteresting dolts, unremarkable acting. As for the kids: The older boy was a good actor and I liked the blow job scene with the exception that they didn't actually show the blow job. No, that would be too daring. Can't offend anyone's sensibilities too much, plus the distributors might not allow it. And god forbid we can't get our film screened at Landmark Theaters. Same was true of the introduction of scatology as a subject. Ooh, we'll be daring here! But can't push our audience too far, so we'll use an innocent little toddler as our deliverance mechanism. It is, after all, a successful marketing formula. We'll target those that like their films normal to up to one standard deviation from deviant but no further. It's for the same people liberal enough to vote Democratic but either thoughtless or not liberal enough to vote for a third party. It's for the people who may smoke marijuana socially but really prefer alcohol. It's for the people who, if not married with kids, want to be married with kids. It's for people who live in the suburbs who when visiting the city, think they are doing a good deed by giving money to a drunken homeless man. It's for the people who enjoy shopping. It's for overly sensitive types who think they have a right to not be offended. It's for the people who just love babies, and think nothing of bringing them out in public where they will surely be a nuisance to those of us trying to mind our own business! It's for lesbians who own expensive condos in Provincetown and relish how their gentrification is making P-Town increasingly 'family friendly.' It's for gay men to whom gay marriage is at the top of their political agenda. It's for straight females who have primarily gay male friends. It's for gay males who have primarily straight female friends. It's for women who love Hillary Clinton, and really don't care for pornography. It's for men who who want to appease the aforementioned women. It's for the same people who flocked to 'alternative' music in the early 90's making alternative music no longer such. It's the new 'independent film' formula. It's not cool to be Hollywood anymore, so the Hollywooders have become 'independent.' This film is one of their products and I'm calling it what is truly is: Mainstream Corporate Hollywood Trash!

"But overall I actually do give it 3 cats."

Scot replies: "Interesting review. It reminds me of a discussion with Renata Adler that Michael and I attended at BU. She had quite a lot to say about Pauline Kael’s unusual, telling habit of focusing her reviews on the perceived faults of people who do or may like the film, rather than the on the film itself.

"And about the blow job and the poop. I think the whole message of the film is that when it’s about 'the rest of the world,' what we see is the blow job, the poop, the pedophile, the stalker, the bitch with power, and the neglectful parent. When it’s about 'me and you and everyone we know,' it’s about life, getting through it, and trying to be understood."