Miranda July‘s Me and You and Everyone We Know–she wrote, directed and acted in it– is a little gem of a movie. (I have no idea how I missed it for so long; it was released in 2005; thanks Netflix!) It’s the kind of film you could describe as a ‘quirky indie’–for it wears that genre’s aesthetic quite prominently on its sleeves–and you’d be right. There is a plot of sorts, some very talented young actors, and a wry humor–part visual, part verbal, part physical–that suffuses most of its frames. It begins slowly, finding its way tentatively, and the viewer struggles to find his bearings at first. A few minutes later, you realize you are watching a movie with great comic potential and heart, and you settle in for the ride.
It’s a gentle one, punctuated by moments that are ostensibly outrageous but which, because of July’s deft touch–both behind the camera and in the script–never seem overstated. (Having once seen Me and You and Everyone We Know you’ll certainly never think of ‘back and forth forever’ and the brand new emoticon ‘)) <> ((‘ in quite the same way again; those that frequent chat-rooms for a little virtual sexual adventure or two might have their universe of ‘who could it be at the other end’ expanded.) These moments–which earned the movie an R rating from the unsurprisingly prissy MPAA “for disturbing sexual content involving children,”–are also quietly hilarious, because they tap into some simple, yet universal, facts about humans: that children, both teens and pre-teens, like it or not, have a sexual sense and are infinitely curious about it, that adulthood does not always bring sexual satisfaction and completion. You will squirm a bit, giggle too, and in the climactic scene–no pun intended–laugh out loud.
But Me and You and Everyone We Know is ultimately a movie about love: the variety that goes bad and more importantly, that kind which seeks to blossom. Because it begins with the former and ends with the latter–in not just one, but perhaps two venues–it is a hopeful movie. It showcases the central oddity of love: that it may blossom in the strangest of locales, bringing together odd pairs of fellow travelers in the strangest of ways. The awkwardness and gentleness of the encounters between the ‘couples’–Pam (JoNell Kennedy) and Richard (John Hawkes) (love gone bad), Richard and Christine (Miranda July) (love coming good), and Sylvie (Carlie Westerman) and Peter (Miles Thompson) (proto-love, maybe?)–are testaments to the way love can make fools and angels of us all.
A few days ago, I wrote a scathing review of an expensive, bloated, ponderous, big-budget, 3-D action movie–Prometheus–that wanted to claim for itself a piece of the cinematic philosopher’s pie and thus raise itself to the level of a serious intellectual statement. Me and You and Everyone We Know doesn’t aim that high but it still shows that that can be done for far less money and with much less pretentiousness if the essentials of good cinema and storytelling are followed.