Dir/scr: Miranda July.US. 2005. 95mins.
Performance/video artistMiranda July takes a captivating jump into the almost-mainstream with Me AndYou And Everyone We Know, a neighbourhood character study set in LosAngeles. Her sparse approach to drama puts the film squarely in theexperimental category, but she follows a traditional linear narrative withconverging storylines which gives audiences something to hang onto as they giveher debut feature a chance. And one chance is all this strangely upbeat andperky effort needs in order to charm.
July already has a small butvery loyal audience among fine art connoisseurs and punk club aficionados,among who she has been showing her work for the past 10 years, but Me AndYou And Everyone We Know indicates she's clearly ready for a much wideraudience. It's something both IFC Films and Film Four obviously recognised whenthey signed on to co-produce, and when IFC decided to distribute the film inthe US from late June onwards.
While the arthouse audiencemay not be large at first, the film, which won a special jury award at Sundancefor Originality of Vision, is a showcase debut that will convince cinemagoersthat they need to get in on the ground floor for this talented newcomer, whocomes off like a female Richard Linklater circa 1991. Europeans will be lessdisconcerted by the minimalist approach and may take to the film even moreheartily.
July also stars, playingChristine Jesperson, a performance and video artist who is trying to makesomething happen for herself by courting a prickly museum curator.
She then meets a mall shoesalesman (John Hawkes), who is in the middle of a separation from his wife. Thestory also follows his two sons, seven-year-old Robby and 14-year-old Peter(Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff), two neighbourhood teenage girls and alonely neighbour (Brad Henke), who is also a mall shoe salesman.
The children prove to be thefilm's chief attraction as July explores their inner lives and sets them upagainst audiences' usual expectations of precocious children in movies. Mostlyunsupervised, they have a life of their own that verges on the dangerous.
Robby, a self-possessedlittle boy who is played with utter aplomb by Ratcliff, goes off on his owntangent on the Internet, where he and his brother have been posing as an adultman in a sex chat room. He knows exactly what he's saying in a seven-year-old'suniverse, but he doesn't know how it's being received by the lonely woman he'scourting online.
The girls meanwhile are inthe middle of an outburst of sexual energy, which they take out first on theadult neighbour who won't take the game far enough. Then they find Peter, whois happy enough to comply with an experiment they want to undertake on oralsex.
July's signature observationthroughout is the contextual mix-up between their world and that of the adult,and her ability to pull from these some touching, complex scenes indicate thebright future she has ahead of her.
For her own acting role sheexudes exuberance to the point of girlish silliness, the antithesis of the dourrenegade artist one might expect from her aesthetic background.
Prod cos: Film Four, IFC Films
US dist: IFC Films
Int'l sales: Celluloid Dreams
Exec prods: Holly Becker, PeterCarlton, Carolyn Kaplan, Jonathan Sehring
Prods: Gina Kwon
Cine: Chuy Chavez
Prod des: Aran Mann
Ed: Andrew Dickler, CharlieIreland
Mus: Mike Andrews
Main cast: John Hawkes, MirandaJuly, Miles Thompson, Brandon Ratcliff, Carlie Westerman, Brad Henke