Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Me and You and Everyone We Know


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/3/06 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.


Written, directed, and starring Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know is a multi-layered ensemble drama about lonely people trying to connect with other people. One story involves a performance artist/cab driver who falls for a divorced man along with stories about a 14-year old kid getting the attention of young girls while a 7-year old boy meets someone on the Internet. Also starring John Hawkes, Miles Thompson, Brandon Ratcliff, and Carlie Westerman. Me and You and Everyone We Know is a delightful, idiosyncratic debut from the multi-talented Miranda July.

Shoe salesman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes) has just gotten divorced from his wife Pam (JoNell Kennedy) as he gets shared custody of their sons in 14-year old Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff). While Richard struggles to connect with his sons as they've become more interested in chatting online on the Internet. A struggling performance artist named Christine Jeperson (Miranda July) works part-time as a cab driver for the elderly as she helps out an old man named Michael (Hector Elias). With Christine buying shoes for Michael at the mall, she meets Richard who was working as she falls for him. Richard's co-worker Andrew (Brad William Henke) finds himself being tempted by two young teenage girls in Heather (Natasha Slayton) and Rebecca (Najarra Townsend) over their interest in sex.

Peter and Robby's online chatting has them also interested in sex where Robby's strange idea in chatting with a mysterious person gets more intriguing. Particularly as Peter becomes an interest towards Heather and Rebecca in their discovery for sex as they get him involved for help where it ends up being awkward for all of them. Peter meanwhile, becomes more interested towards a younger girl named Sylvie (Carlie Westerman) who saw Peter with the two other girls. When Christine decides to take a tape to an art gallery director in Nancy Herrington (Tracy Wright), Christine later bumps into Richard as she tries to connect with him. Richard however is still dealing with his divorce while Peter becomes ill while Christine ponders about her own loneliness.

Now the idea of connecting various characters in a number of stories is a style that is old that is made famously by the seminal works of Robert Altman. What Miranda July does is take that ensemble, multi-story world into a new level where it's fresh and original. Notably for its awkwardness of how unusual people are trying to connect with one another. Especially in the discoveries of sex and things where the young kids are trying to figure it out, including their own idea about the future. Even July's character Christine is trying to connect with not just on her own eccentricity but also through her art where it reveals her strange personality but also an artist who has something to say. This approach truly creates not just something that is very original but unique in the themes its conveying about loneliness.

July's script is filled with natural stories where the connections between character doesn't feel contrived and the situations are in are felt more naturally in its humor and dramatic context. Particularly how the kids try to discover the strange world of sex, even in its most perverse to the point that all the characters involved in that situation are just weird and unsure. July's fascinating screenplay is helped even more by her wondrous direction where she observes all the characters and their situations even as they attempt to try connect with one another. July's camera often focuses on not just the characters but the objects and things around them, especially in their own suburban environment where everyone feels lonely with very few people to talk to. What July creates is a debut feature that is filled with wonderful imagery and moments that speaks true to her characters and the lonely world they live in.

Helping July in her vision is cinematographer Chuy Chavez whose colorful photography helps with July's eccentric vision with shades of blue for evening sequences while all sorts of colors come out in every way to convey the feelings of the characters. Production designer Aran Mann and art director John Wyatt also help out July in her strange vision with the design of not just Richard's small, shabby apartment but the objects from Sylvie's hope chest and the museum things that includes some of July's own material. The costumes of Christine Wittenborn also reveal the strange, quirky personality of the characters involved, including some of July's own clothing which are filled with strange shirts and decaying shoes. Editors Andrew Dickler and Charles Ireland do wonderful job with the film's strange rhythm in its 92-minute running time with quirky cuts and solid editing that helps the film convey its own sense of style, especially in its presentation to convey what those characters are feeling.

The film's music is filled with strange, quirky score treatment by Michael Andrews along with original music from Ryeland Allison which helps conveys the loneliness and odd behaviors of the characters. The rest of the music is filled with cuts by Spiritualized, Cody ChesnuTT, and Virginia Astley where all the music is film creates a wonderful, poignant soundtrack.

Finally, we have the film's wonderful, ensemble cast that includes some nice, small performances from Ellen Greer as Michael's ailing wife, JoNell Kennedy, Colette Kilroy as Sylvie's mom, and Amy French as Nancy's assistant. In the role of the two underage girls discovering sex, Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townsend are excellent in their performances as naive, Lolita-like girls who get into more than they bargain for in their discovering of sex. Carlie Westerman is even better as a younger girl who not only gets her first glimpse of sex but is more innocent in her dream to have a family while holding items she hope would be useful for her own future. Tracy Wright is also excellent in the role of the museum director who is really troubled in finding something that would stand out for her museum while dealing with her own loneliness. Brad William Henke brings humor to a troubling performance as Richard's co-worker who is attracted to young girls but is aware of that what he's doing is wrong as he tries to deal with his perverse ideas.

Hector Elias is also excellent in the role of Michael, an old man who is about to mourn the upcoming passing of his wife while helping Christine with her project. Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff give the best performances of the young cast as two young boys growing into a world where they discover sex with Thompson giving the more mature performance as a boy being confused. Ratcliff meanwhile, plays the more innocent role as his innocent suggestion leads to immense amounts of confusion as the boy discovers the world of sex. John Hawkes is extraordinarily amazing in his role as Richard who is desperate to try and connect with his own sons while dealing with the awkwardness of Christine as he and July have wonderful, natural chemistry as Hawkes delivers an amazing performance. Finally, there's Miranda July in a wonderful performance as Christine whose emotional struggle to connect with her art and personality is very troubling as July sells every moment of failure and heartbreak in a wonderfully, sympathetic performance.

The 2005 MGM Region 1 DVD shows the film in its 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen format along with its 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound for English. The special features though are minimal since they show several film trailers and previews for other movies. The only special feature for the film is shown are six deleted scenes. Three of them involve Robby's innocent yet perverse idea of sex. Another is an alternate version of Peter's meeting with Sylvie at school and two more scenes involves Sylvie discovering a girl she knows working as a model. While the scenes are nice to see, it's understandable why they got cut and if they were kept in the film, it would disrupt its rhythm. The DVD overall is nice but hopefully in the future, more features especially from July's own input would be revealed.

Me and You and Everyone We Know is a mesmerizing debut film from Miranda July. Featuring a great supporting performance from John Hawkes, it's a film that is truly unique and original with lots of great visual touches and an endearing theme about human contact. While a lot of its eccentric ideas and July's approach to the story telling might be twee to some viewers. There is something that is still unlike anything out there as it really shows something new that a lot of people haven't seen. In the end, Me and You and Everyone We Know is an enchanting debut film from Miranda July.


(C) thevoid99 2011

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