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Me and You and Everyone We Know
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Believe the hype-the indie charmer of the summer"
5 stars

For would-be filmmakers who have struggled for years to make some kind of mark with their work, the sudden ascendancy of someone like Miranda July must be incredibly frustrating to behold. Previously known only in certain circles as a performance artist of some renown among those interested in such things, she entered Sundance this year with her debut film, a low-budget comedy-drama entitled “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Although it was hardly one of the high-profile films on the schedule–it didn’t have any celebrities appearing in an attempt to gain indie cred–it caught a huge break when a few influential critics, chief among them Roger Ebert, stumbled into it and declared it the best thing they had seen at the festival. It went on to win a Special Jury prize and launched both the film and July into a whirlwind of distribution deals, interviews, magazine covers and festival appearances that culminated in May when July found herself on-stage at the Cannes Film Festival co-receiving the award from the unlikely presentation team of Milla Jovovich and Abbas Kiarostami.

And yet, only the most churlish and jealous would complain about the hype that July has received because her film is, surprise of surprises, genuinely worthy of all the accolades and hype that it has garnered to date. In recent years, there have been too many films that have come out of Sundance with their makers anointed as the Next Big Thing that have, when seen away from the hustle and flow of the festival, turned out to be massive financial and artistic disappointments. (Two words: “Happy, Texas.”) “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” on the other hand, is the exception to that rule–it is a funny and touching film that takes a look at the personal relationships of several oddball L.A. residents over the course of a few days and does so with a fresh and original eye and voice. It also announces Miranda July as a major talent with a debut work so assured and fully-formed that you can hardly believe that it is only her first attempt at a feature film.

July stars as Christine, a lonely woman who works as a driver for the elderly while striving for her big break as a performance artist. While taking a client out to buy shoes, she is intrigued by the sight of the salesman, Richard (John Hawkes) and semi-aggressively tries to chat him up. Richard, for his part, is still struggling with his recent separation from his wife and trying to raise his two sons–early teener Peter (Miles Thompson) and the younger Robby (Brandon Ratcliff)–to even give much notice until Christine actually gets into his car with him after a long, slightly flirty walk from the store to his parking space. In her defense, Richard does seem a bit too distracted from things to give her much notice–his brilliant idea for attracting the attention of his kids is to attempt to impress them by doing a trick in which he sets his hand on fire, a stunt that results in third-degree burns instead of smiles.

Although the tentative fumblings between Christine and Richard form the central story arc of the film (right down to the bit where Christine sees Richard talking to his ex from a distance and misunderstands everything), it soon becomes clear that all of the characters, young and old, are engaged in a desperate search for genuine human connection and interaction, even if they themselves don’t quite realize it. A pair of Lolitas-in-training (Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townsend) find themselves as the lust objects of an older neighbor–a guy who, as it turns out, loves the idea of sexy teen girls but fears their messy reality. As they continue to up the ante, Peter finds himself unwittingly pulled into the fray in a scene that would be played for sniggering laughs in a normal teen comedy but which played here in a more somber and melancholy mode. Another couple, this one an elderly pair that Christine drives around, are surprised to once again find true love–again, this is underlined by the sad, simple fact that no matter how happy they are, the reality is that they only have a certain amount of time left together. As for Robby, he finds himself taking part in a sexually charged instant messaging conversation with an unknown person–although he has no context for what is being said, his natural inclination towards potty talk (he is at the age where “poop” is the funniest word in the world) winds up tapping into previously undiscovered fetishes.

“Me and You and Everyone We Know” has been compared in some circles to the works of Robert Altman and Todd Solondz because of the sprawling narratives of the former and the occasionally charged material and the loser-like character qualities of the latter. There is a hint of Altman (as well as acolytes such as Alan Rudolph, Jonathan Demme and Paul Thomas Anderson) in July’s work, both in the ambitious narrative structure and the way that the various stories spin off and collide in unexpected ways. As for Solondz, there is no comparison because while July focuses on characters who might say and do strange and unfathomable things, she demonstrates a genuine interest and affection for them. While Solondz seems to hate his characters and holds them up for contempt, July genuinely loves and understands them. Take the character on the other end of the IM chat with Robby. While others would have played up the shocking nature of blending children with sexually charged material, July concentrates on the desperate need and yearning of the character, who, of course, doesn’t know that the person on the other end is a small child. When the two finally meet towards the end, the scene in which the character suddenly realizes who this kid is, the reaction is funny enough but July holds it out a little longer in order to transform a bit of dark humor into a genuinely touching moment between the two.

The largely unknown cast is really impressive in the way that they temper the quirkiness of the screenplay with performances that seem absolutely authentic–the younger characters are especially good and natural in their work. (In their few scenes, the two teen girls played by Slayton and Townsend make the entirety of “Thirteen” seem even faker and sillier than it was at first glance.) As Richard, John Hawkes does an intriguing balancing act–he unflinchingly shows us the weirdo sides that would understandably turn most people off while still projecting a softer, more vulnerable side that would attract others at the same time. July is also very good in the role of struggling performance artist Christine–she combines wit, charm, vulnerability and a goofy, off-kilter sexiness of the kind that hasn’t graced the screen since Jessica Harper became a cult icon in the 1970's. She and Hawkes have an incredibly appealing oddball chemistry in their scenes together–although they may not seem like a typical movie couple and won’t receive a fraction of the attention of Brangelina, they are the most fascinating duo that you are likely to see on a movie screen this summer.

In recent years, every summer gets at least one or two indie hits that come out of nowhere and wind up sharing the spotlight with the big boys–last year had the loathsome “Napoleon Dynamite” and the entertaining gimmick film “Open Water.” With any luck, “Me and You and Everyone We Know” will wind up filling this year’s slot. It may sound similar to any number of recent movies (especially the multi-character likes of “Crash” and “Heights”) on the surface but I guarantee that both the film and Miranda July are true originals. The film is slowly opening throughout the country and so it may not be as accessible to most of you as the other multiplex behemoths. Trust me, whatever effort you have to make in order to see it will be well worth it in the end.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11224&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/23/05 23:46:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more in the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/27/09 Drew A great mvoie 5 stars
8/16/06 Mary Beth enjoyable but forgettable 4 stars
11/20/05 Indrid Cold A series of bizarre interpersonal encounters = a brilliant movie? ummmm, afraid not 3 stars
11/03/05 Phil M. Aficionado It tries too hard and comes out awkward, edgy, quirky; fractured look at life 2 stars
10/11/05 Elizabeth S Extremely disappointing. 2 stars
9/03/05 jcjs awesome, clever, real, touching, outstanding, phenominal, European maturity, wow 5 stars
7/25/05 Allen Price I found this to be a very awkward movie about 2 very awkward people. While we all feel awk 2 stars
7/18/05 ModelCitizen a bizarre, at times hilarious, and always a very human film 4 stars
7/15/05 gerald berke Ms. July is a trustworthy artist. 5 stars
7/05/05 nina i have to seeeee this 5 stars
6/20/05 iyipo total crap 1 stars
6/19/05 Jhan Stevens An intriguing film--you never know what will happen next with the cast of quirky characters 5 stars
3/22/05 dorinda Best movie ever! 5 stars
2/06/05 Todahe Very unique and well done 4 stars
1/27/05 Sherri Comical yet extremely moving 5 stars
1/26/05 Joanie Pretentious and vapid 3 stars
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  17-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005



Directed by
  Miranda July

Written by
  Miranda July

  John Hawkes
  Ellen Geer
  Brad Henke
  Jordan Potter
  Brandon Ratcliff
  Miranda July

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