Me and You and Everyone We Know Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/15/2005
I love all movies, indie and mainstream, but this movie review is also going to let you know my opinion on certain indie movies. I hope that some of you indie movie fans won’t be offended by this review, but I have to get this off my chest. Me and You and Everyone We Know is my example of when indie movies fail to find an audience.
Before I get into the indie topic, let me give you the synopsis of the movie, if I can understand it. Richard Swersey (John Hawkes) is a shoe salesman for M&F Department Store. He is lonely, and his wife Pam (Jo Nelle Kennedy) has just left him. Their kids, 14-year-old Peter (Miles Thompson) and 7-year-old Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), seem lonely too…but we’ll get to them in a second. In an attempt to make himself seem less boring to his kids, Richard pours lighter fluid over his hand and lights it on fire…a trick his uncle had taught him. Unfortunately, he forgot that it was rubbing alcohol and not lighter fluid that he was supposed to use, and he ends up burned, resulting in his hand being in a bandage for most of the movie. Richard is possibly one of the more normal and sane people in the movie though. Christine Jesperson (Miranda July) is a lonely performance artist who drives an Eldercab for senior citizens as her day job. One day, while driving a senior named Michael (Hector Elias) to get some shoes, she meets Richard. They flirt, and seem to be attracted to one another. Later, she asks Michael and his bedridden girlfriend Ellen (Ellen Geer) if she should pursue Richard, which they think that she should do. She awkwardly gets into Richard’s car (this is after she had already had some weird conversation about comparing the walk to their cars as a metaphor for life’s length), but he freaks out and asks her to leave. Christine is bummed, but she has other concerns. She wants to submit her performance piece to the director of the Center for Contemporary Art, Nancy Herrington (Tracy Wright), but Nancy won’t accept it unless it is sent to her by mail instead of in person (I’ve been there…so I can relate.) Nancy is a lonely person too, and when she finally sees Christine’s tape, she makes a decision to do something risky. Meanwhile, the kids are another ball of wax. Both Peter and Robby constantly have these hangdog looks on their faces and always look depressed (apparently Richard’s trick didn’t work to entertain them.) Two teenage neighborhood girls, Heather (Natasha Slayton) and Rebecca (Najarra Townsend), who want to do grown-up things, pursue Peter. After seeing some lewd and suggestive signs made by Richard’s co-worker, Andrew (Brad William Henke), taped onto the front window of his apartment, they decide to ask Peter to help them do an oral taste test…on Peter. They blindfold him and take turns…well…you get the picture. Later, the girls call Andrew on his bluff, but he cowers in his apartment. You would think that Peter would be exited over what Heather and Rebecca had just done to him, but he seems to be more interested in another neighbor girl, 10-year-old Sylvie (Carlie Westerman.) Sylvie collects household things in her hope chest that she wants to give to her future daughter, because I guess her mother, Nedra (Colette Kilroy), must not love her enough or something. Robby is having an online affair with a woman, though I’m not sure that he understands what he is doing. What I think was meant to be a joke in an instant message conversation about his desires in the scatological way becomes more involved than I think he had intended. He goes to meet this online woman in the park later in the movie, but nothing comes from it (the woman is surprised by Robby though.) In the end, all it seems to take is for Christine to put a painting of a bird into a tree for everything to be okay…and the audience is expected to know what the heck that means.
There are two types of indie movies that I’ve noticed: normal, low budget movies, and what I call “gay cowboys eating pudding” movies. That term is inspired by an episode of “South Park” from the second season where the organizers of an independent film festival decide to hold it in South Park instead of their usual location. Cartman hates indie movies, because they are all about “gay cowboys eating pudding.” While the other boys argue with him that indie movies are just films made outside the Hollywood system, Cartman doesn’t believe them. They go to see the movies, and unfortunately, it confirms what Cartman was saying…some indie movies really do suck. In their attempt to be “different,” some of these movies have become “confusing,” and therefore they are “horrible.”
For one thing, I don’t understand why all of the characters have to talk like they are in an episode of “Dawson’s Creek.” I’m not talking about the show’s pop culture references…I’m talking about how they always used to talk like they were giving an arty monologue instead of talking like real people. That is how the people in this movie all seemed to talk.
The performances are fine in the movie though. Hawkes, who currently plays Sol Star in the HBO series “Deadwood,” is the best one in the movie. I thought his flirting with July was believable, along with his puzzling rejection of her. July, who also wrote and directed the movie, did a decent job in her lead acting debut. She has dipped her toe in many other mediums, like spoken word albums and short stories, but this is her feature debut. Thompson and Ratcliff are both quiet and depressing, but I guess that is the nature of their characters. Westerman is another one of those child actors who seems more mature than her obvious appearance.
The movie started out interesting. While driving Michael around, they notice a man accidentally leaving his daughter’s newly purchased goldfish on the top of his car. They watch as the goldfish slowly falls from the car’s roof to the bumper of the car behind him, and ultimately onto the ground. The way July filmed it made it look exciting, funny, and tragic at the same time. After that point, the movie just gets weirder, with an ending that makes no sense.
I’d like to see July make another movie that made sense, but based on her other projects (I’ve listened to clips of her spoken word albums), I have a feeling that it is unlikely. Independent filmmakers always gripe about how it is hard to get distribution and box office sales for their artistic visions, but when they make movies like Me and You and Everyone We Know, I have a feeling that they still won’t get the audiences coming to see them. Fans of July might like the movie or movies like it, but unless you want real people to see them, I think that the filmmakers will continue to gripe.
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