Friday, October 14, 2005

Me and You and Everyone We Know (July, 2005)

Brimming over with creativity, sensitivity, and sheer poetry, Miranda July’s directorial debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know, is nothing short of an awe-inspiring artistic accomplishment. The miracle of July’s film is in the way it perfectly rides the line between the quirky and the sincere, the provocative and the pleasing, the humorous and the horrifying. It forges a relationship with the audience that is unlike any other film I have ever seen. July is an artist with serious intentions, tackling troubling issues of modernity and the alienating effects of life in the technological age; yet, somehow the film never allows itself to be weighed down by suffocating angst. Children are put into situations that in real life would cause us disgust and horror, yet July’s film flits on like it’s been sprinkled with pixie dust. Imagine Todd Solondz on helium.

July, who has a background in performance art, puts those skills to good use here. Her dialogue, characters and situations are unbound by convention. Rather than slavishly detailing a meaningless plot, each scene works as a piece of the whole in painting a vivid portrait of life in the 21st century. A simple stroll down the sidewalk between two strangers becomes an imagined lifetime of love and companionship. A misplaced parcel on the roof of a car becomes an opportunity to affirm a world of love and compassion. A vacation photo becomes the visual expression of fond memories that never truly existed. What a joy it must be to see the world through July’s eyes. At every corner, poetry. And yet it must be said that the film has a definitive forward progression. The average filmgoer will not feel themselves awash in a sea of opaqueness. The film has likable characters, tentative romance, numerous moments of high comedy and ultimately a life-affirming outlook on humanity. All the things that mainstream audiences love.

Part of the reason that July is able to get away with her numerous artistic indulgences is that she includes a delightful subplot which knowingly skewers the world of modern art. July’s character, when she is not serving as a chauffeur to the elderly, is also a multimedia artist whose works incorporate film, performance and still photographs taken out of context. Throughout the film, she attempts to gain the attention of the curator of a modern art museum, a chilly woman whose passion seems to be in the expression of power, rather than the expression of artistic impulse. It’s a smart move on July’s part, as it allows the curator character to serve as a kind of lightning rod for all the feelings of resistance audience members might have about artistic pretension. With the gesture, July assures us that we need not take her too seriously. That she understands the danger of artistic myopia. That she remains connected with us. Hence, we trust her and go along for the ride as she shares with us her outlook on relationships, parenting, sex and divorce – subjects that have been addressed countless times in drama, but through July’s inventiveness become fresh, enlightening and deeply moving.

Me and You and Everyone We Know is a special kind of film. It provides an experience that is simultaneously challenging and entertaining. July so successfully manages these two tasks that we never truly feel as if we are being tugged one way or another. We simply soak it all in and wait eagerly for the next scene, the next laugh, the next insight, the next stirring image. Though it is her first feature film, July hits the ground running, revealing a supremely charismatic and confident artist. Filled with a plethora of meaningful and memorable moments that I look forward to revisiting in the future, Me and You and Everyone We Know is not only the best film I have seen thus far this year, I believe it to be one of the best of the current decade.


Note: An added treat for me in watching the film were the references to my new neighborhood. At one point, a character mentions that Robby was walking on Burnside. I saw the film at a cinema on Burnside. Also, Laurelhurst Park, which is mentioned in the film is just a few blocks away from me. I frequently take my boy there to play on the playground equipment.


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