The website of Dan Erdman
This is another one of those network narrative films which seemed to suddenly become a self-conscious mini-genre around the turn of the century. Here, disparate connections are tracked among a group related to the de facto co-lead protagonists, Christine (Miranda July, who also directed) and Richard (John Hawkes). The two of them meet in the shoe store that he works at and seem to like each other; the spine of the story tracks the tension between them as we wait for either of them to fully act on that impulse.
I found Me and You to be a bit much. Every scene, nearly every line of dialogue points a bit too directly to the main theme of the quest for intimacy and sincerity in relationships, resulting in a movie that feels very busy even when there’s very little actually going on. There’s very few establishing shots, throwaway lines of dialogue, or bits of performance, none of the elements that function as the kind of sinew of a movie, holding together the larger pieces. It’s structured like Airplane! – in that movie, every element in the frame was either a set-up or punchline, here, they’re the visual (and sonic) equivalent to a Paul-Harvey-style pontification on The Point of It all. July doesn’t demonstrate the visual inventiveness of the Z.A.Z. team here, or much cinematic aptitude in general, cutting exactly on the end of each line of dialogue, and throwing unnecessary close-ups and reaction shots into scenes that would probably be better staged in single takes (which is the approach I would’ve expected a performance artist to take). And way too much music! The (frankly) kind of dippy score (which sounds exactly like you’d imagine a Casio-based score for a movie funded by the Sundance Institute sounds like) plays us out of almost every single scene, usually to said scenes’ ultimate detriment. The videography has also aged rather poorly, with some shocking mismatches of color and brightness in between shots of allegedly adjacent spaces.
However clumsily presented, July’s theme of the search for human connection is a valid one, and not something I want to be too cynical about, but the faux-naif quality of the whole enterprise made that a bit of a challenge for me. The plays out in an especially distasteful way with regard to Richard’s children, Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), and two neighborhood teenagers, Heather (Natasha Slayton) and Rebecca (Najarra Townsend). These characters aren’t presented as a contrast to the adult characters and their relationships – a different, necessarily restricted perspective on the adults’ actions – but as part of a continuum with them. The grown-ups and kids share the same emotional dynamics; if the execrable term had been around back then, I guarantee that July would’ve included a line of dialogue lamenting the difficulty of “adulting.” Its weirdly chaste, to say nothing of prudish, cast of mind is another sign of this – more than one character announces their preference for sleeping over sex. It seems to imagine some superficially transgressive relationships – the two girls’s sexual baiting of a mid-30s male shut-in, 5-year-old Robby and a chatroom debauchee – but resolves them all by removing any suggestion of horniness – fair enough in these particular cases, but it seems to think that that’s a worthy example for grown men and women to follow! There’s a somewhat nasty streak among this movie’s detractors that I find much more objectionable than any of the movie’s faults, but if there’s any element of it that’s worthy of actual scorn it’s this nonsensical cuddle-party view of grown-up life.
There are some nice performances, particularly by the child actors, and July has some nice mannerisms that work well when she has to act in close-up. And who could hate the jokes at the expense of museum curators? It did make me curious about July’s video pieces, which I’m almost wholly unfamiliar with.