Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Me and You and Everyone We Know


Miranda July’s comic musings on the search for love are found in ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW. July plays Christine, a sensitive elder cab driver who finds an outlet in performance art. John Hawkes is Richard, a lonely shoe salesman coping with a recent divorce and trying to put on a brave face for his two kids. Christine and Richard’s awkward flirtation is the main story, but ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW also touches upon a few other characters’ tentative attempts to make a connection.

If Todd Solondz were a humanist, he might make something like performance artist Miranda July's winning debut feature film. Instead of observing human foibles and determining that people are diseased creatures, she finds something affirming and hopeful. Dressed in cheerful pastels, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW is a comic look at how people keep themselves apart, remain confused about sex and love, and desperately want human contact but are afraid or think themselves unworthy of it. The film is neatly summarized in a scene in which Christine writes “me” on her left shoe and “you” on her right shoe. She then videotapes the feet hesitantly approaching and retreating from each other. July displays an excellent visual sense, such as buttonhook transitions from the moon to a mirror’s reflected beam and a tapping penny to the moving sun.

She expertly straddles the line of edgy humor without taking it someplace really twisted. July gently skewers the art world and takes provocative jabs at sexual and emotional hang-ups. Initially ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW’S sketch-like construction may seem facile and too precious, but the slowly emerging through line leads to an emotionally affecting resolution. Similarly, Michael Andrews’ electronic score, akin to the music of The Postal Service and other laptop pop bands, sounds chilly before revealing the deeply rooted passion. Ultimately July is interested in exploring the barriers and freedom offered through technology. The digital age affords the ability to be anyone, witnessed most humorously in the film’s chat room “sex” scene, but July questions if it is worth false or absent intimacy.

Grade: A-

(A shorter version of this review first aired on the August 2, 2005 NOW PLAYING)

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