Director: Miranda July
Stars: John Hawkes (Richard Swersey), Miranda July (Christine Jesperson).
Nominated by: Hattie English
To begin with Me And You And Everyone We Know feels – as Morgan Freeman’s Vitruvius would say in The Lego Movie – like a cat poster. Bright, motivational, slapped with a perfunctory slogan and seemingly expectant of your gratitude that it’s appeared to brighten up your day. Gee, thanks, cat poster. Separated father of two Richard Swersey wanders around his house and place of work saying things like, “You think you deserve that pain but you don’t”, or “I am prepared for amazing things to happen. I can handle it.” Meanwhile, the film’s other central figure, Christine, makes awkward sounding self-help tapes that turn out to be an art project and gets sentimental over goldfish in a life-threatening situation. All the while, Michael Andrews’ score sounds like someone leaned on the Casio keyboard button marked ‘demo’. Not auspicious.
But then it’s very easy to find a film like Me And You And Everyone We Know cloying or overly cute if you’re determined to be so cynical. It appeared slap bang in the middle of last decade’s run of indie ‘dramadies’ – that slew of overly precious independent comedy dramas that swelled like clouds ready to burst rainbow droplets of adorableness all over you. Didn’t you just get soaked watching Little Miss Sunshine? (a film I positively loathe, by the way). Miranda July’s bouyant stream-of-consciousness seems like more of the same, at first, from her pastel colour palette to the inevitably ‘quirky’ romance predestined between the two central characters. Holy crap I’m using inverted commas too much.
However, surrender to it (or forgive it), and Me And You And Everyone We Know is actually a really enjoyable, woozy experience. Andrews’ score stops sounding like a keyboard demo and instead takes on that off-kilter, slightly menacing tone that underpinned Chris Morris’ Jam. July’s movie – while never as extreme as Morris’ vision – morphs accepted suburbia into a stilted self-image; a funhouse mirror of conventional humdrum reality, one in which promiscuous teenagers solicit a slobbish loner and unmonitored children get involved in adult online chats about… well… yeah, you’ll see (now I know where that Cards Against Humanity card comes from).
July’s movie starts to defy expectations. Sure, it’s still very cute, but the assumed preoccupation with greeting’s card romance turns out to be folly. It’s as though July has invited you into a branch of Paperchase, only to lock the doors then set off the fire alarm; you’re in no real danger, but you don’t quite feel safe anymore.
The burgeoning relationship between Richard and Christine is rarely foregrounded, instead Me And You… feels more like a scattered ensemble piece; a comparatively tame alternative to Todd Solondz’s Happiness. Not that this is especially neutered material. A sequence in which two teenage girls compete to give a young man the better blowjob defies the assumption that the pretty worlds of soft-toned indie cinema are safe viewing for all ages even as the film openly advises us that there’s no protecting our children and that they might be more craven – and just maybe a little wiser – than any of us. The film as a whole suggests society is becoming hyper self-aware (a prescient suggestion considering how far the intervening decade has taken us down that very path), while at the same time our constant self-regarded is blinding us to the finer things in front of us.
Jeez, now I sound like a cat poster. Perhaps I’m looking for more in this film than there is to find. It could all be a sweet daydream from July. Certainly it exceeded my expectations, and while the presence of John Hawkes will usually sell any title to me, I found the other characters and elements in this film far more engaging than his brown suited optimist. It’s still at times an overly precious experience (July’s follow-up film The Future sounds, if anything, even more saccharine), but it’s worth reminding ourselves that these properties are not bad things. There are far worse traits for a movie to have.
This slightly-too-sweet, slightly-too-sour poem does just fine against its own ambitions.