ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOWR
In an age of formula films, writer/director/actor Miranda July has discovered the priceless value of people-ordinary people who behave in a magnificently bizarre fashion. Yet every single one of them in Me and You and Everyone We Know seems highly credible, more real than imagined. A clever screenwriter and inspired director, July takes us places no other filmmaker has ever visited.
Christine Jesperson (July, in a delightful performance) works with senior citizens. She owns and drives a single vehicle labeled Eldercab that transports the elderly from one place to another. In a home for the aging, she spends hours indulging a fare's passionate romance, one that is touchingly anticlimactic. Even the museum directors the young artist/cabdriver is hustling with her audition video are involved in hanky-panky despite their frozen-faced façades. But high on Christine's list of priorities is winning over the melancholy shoe salesman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes), and her goal involves a lot more than simply buying footwear she does not need. Richard is a lovable philosophical fool, a cross between Don Quixote and Puck, and he is not quite ready for romance, having expressed his rage over the loss of his wife Pam (Jo Nelle Kennedy) by setting his left hand on fire. Yes, divorce can be that painful.
Adding to Richard's guilt and misery is the fact that he has two sons, Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff, in a phenomenal performance), to raise. The boys, ages 14 and six, are angry about losing their mother and give dad the cold shoulder, adding to his distress. The children console themselves by playing sophisticated sexual games in one of the funniest scenes in the film. Not to give anything away, but Robby, the younger sibling, has discovered a form of sexual activity never before conceived and, hopefully, never practiced anywhere on earth. All the children in this perfectly cast film are a real treat. July has remarkable insight into what contemporary kids are really like. No one has presented the pre-teen set as skillfully since Steven Spielberg's E.T.
July's directorial technique, like her personality, is at one and the same time outrageous and low-key. She is both gritty and fantastical. The movie's most staggering moments, such as when two neighborhood girls have a contest to see who gives the best oral sex, are presented in such a shamelessly matter-of-fact fashion that the scene comes off as far more amusing than erotic. Indeed, the most erotic moment is a hug towards the end of the film. This is slice-of-life on wry bread, with extra seasoning.
Me and You and Everyone We Know is far too funny, fearless and blunt-spoken to be confined to art houses. Perhaps the highest praise we can give July's inaugural masterpiece is that it lives up to its title.