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An oddball paean to hope

Optimistic, humanistic and quirky, 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' is about lonely people struggling to connect however they can.

June 24, 2005|Carina Chocano | Times Staff Writer

Moments before dousing his hand with lighter fluid and setting it afire in front of his sons' bedroom window, Richard (John Hawkes), a department store shoe salesman in the midst of a reluctant divorce, walks into their room and asks, "Do I look well to you guys? If you weren't my kids, would you think, 'That guy looks OK'?"

Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff) stare at him blankly; then Robby, who is about 6, asks, "Are you mad at us?"

Miranda July's gorgeously loopy "Me and You and Everyone We Know" is made up of moments like these: nonsequiturs that make perfect sense, banal images that turn transcendent on a dime, casual exchanges that suddenly seem to encompass the entirety of human relationships. Richard didn't mean to self-immolate in the front yard; he only meant to replicate a favorite trick of his uncle's. When the flames didn't go out, he remembered it was alcohol that burned itself off. "Lighter fluid just burns," he tells his co-worker Andrew (Brad William Henke) the next day. So that didn't work. Still, he says, he's "prepared for amazing things to happen."

Almost everyone else in the film is too, and they reach out in infinitesimal ways to show the universe their readiness. A lonely museum curator who is haltingly putting together a show of work that seems "as though it could only be made now" looks for love in an online chat room. Richard's neighbor, a strange and lonely girl named Sylvie (Carlie Westerman), collects housewares and small appliances in a hope chest she plans to share with her future husband and daughter. Andrew meets a couple of teenage girls eager to experiment with their sexuality and plaintively declares, "I would love to believe in a universe where you wake up and don't have to go to work and you go outside and meet two 18-year-old sisters who are also girlfriends and very nice people." But of course he can't, so he just leaves them dirty notes and hides.

"Me and You and Everyone We Know" is an ensemble piece, but it focuses mainly on the relationship between Richard and Christine Jesperson (played by July), a struggling mixed-media artist who works as an "elder cab" driver. Christine meets Richard when she takes a friend and client, Michael (Hector Elias), on an errand to buy tennis shoes.

A few days later, Christine returns to the store and slips Richard her business card. Next, she pretends to run into him on his way out. In one of the loveliest scenes in the movie, they take the two-block walk to their car together, instantly falling into a riff in which the walk becomes a metaphor for a relationship. The promise of their first conversation curdles quickly, though, when Christine pretends to run into Richard a third time, minutes later, and just plain freaks him out.

As funny as it is wistful, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" is about lonely people trying to connect with each other through love, art, the Internet and whatever other means they can think of, and about the increasing difficulty of doing so in a world full of barriers. July takes a world in which everything ugly is a distinct and lurking possibility -- rejection, stagnation, lack of money, sex between adults and teenagers, virtual coprophilia, your true love dumping you because she's dying -- and turns it into an oddball love song.

Optimistic and humanistic to the core, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" is a paean to perseverance and finding ways to cope. It's a little like Richard's explanation to Michael as he helps him try on shoes: "We're not supposed to touch the foot anymore," he explains. "But if you'll notice, we spend a lot of time touching the shoe."


'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

MPAA rating: R for disturbing sexual content involving young children.

Times guidelines: More funny than disturbing, and nothing too graphic.

Miranda July...Christine Jesperson

John Hawkes...Richard Swersey

Miles Thompson...Peter

Brandon Ratcliff...Robby

Carlie Westerman...Sylvie

An IFC Films presentation. Director Miranda July. Producer Gina Kwon. Executive producers Jonathan Sehring. Screenplay by Miranda July. Director of photography Chuy Chavez. Editor Andrew Dickler. Costume designer Christie Wittenborn. Music Mike Andrews. Production designer Aran Mann. Art director John Wyatt. Set decorator Bryan Venegas. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Exclusively at the Landmark Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 281-8223.

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