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MOVIE REVIEW

Love at first sight fated to cool off

In 'Imagine Me & You,' a bride falls for the female florist. It aims for charm but settles for predictable.

January 27, 2006|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

A romantic comedy of the British school, "Imagine Me & You" is not quite charming enough to overcome its predictability. Written and directed by Ol Parker, it's a standardized love story with one very important difference.

Piper Perabo stars as Rachel, a young bride betrothed to the handsome, decent Heck (Matthew Goode of "Match Point"). On her wedding day, for which she claims she has waited her entire life, Rachel locks eyes with another and is pulled into the unmistakable tractor-beam of instant love.

The person she connects with happens to be a beautiful young florist named Luce, played by Lena Headey. Rachel is convinced that she and Luce are destined to be fast friends, and she immediately sets to fixing her up with Heck's best pal, the lascivious Coop (Darren Boyd), a cad with a heart of gold. That Luce is a confirmed lesbian only increases the challenge for Coop.

The early scenes have a giddy awkwardness as the misunderstandings pile up and Rachel and Luce do a clumsy dance toward romance. The supporting cast seems assembled from a Richard Curtis rough draft but suffices to keep things lighthearted most of the time.

Rachel has amusing, if stereotypically bickering parents, Tessa (Celia Imrie) and Ned (Anthony Head), and a precocious young sister (Boo Jackson) who goes by "H" and asks questions like "When do fish sleep?" and "Why is the alphabet in that order?" ("No one knows and no one cares," her mother replies.) Luce's mother, Ella (Sue Johnston) is a divorcee, who is encouraging, if not the best role model, of her daughter's search for true love. Eva Birthistle ("Breakfast on Pluto") has a fun cameo as Luce's pal, Edie.

Writer-director Parker's paean to love at first sight begins as comfortably as a hot cup of tea but quickly goes lukewarm after the lovers acknowledge their attraction. Perabo and Headey have the immediate chemistry required for the premise to work, but the film loses steam once it becomes all about them trying to do the right thing.

Goode is fine in the Ralph Bellamy-Bill Pullman role as the guy too nice to not step gallantly aside, but that's not really enough of a hurdle to make a feature-length film work. It's a romantic comedy, and everyone on the planet knows that the right thing is always going to be to follow one's heart.

That Rachel's destiny lies with a woman and the matter-of-fact way that Sapphic love is depicted is the film's main distinction. The smoldering Headey could inspire just about anyone to switch teams, and the fact that the relationship causes little more than raised eyebrows and a concern on Tessa's part about grandchildren is welcome.

The film has received an R rating from the MPAA, which seems a little silly considering that it features the kind of chaste smooching we've become accustomed to from Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Perhaps we must be content that we're at a point in time when a same-sex fairy-tale ending -- the antithesis of the tragedy of "Brokeback Mountain" -- will otherwise likely pass without a ripple of controversy.

*

`Imagine Me & You'

MPAA rating: R for some language and sexual material

A Fox Searchlight release. Writer-director Ol Parker. Producers Sophie Balhetchet, Barnaby Thompson, Andro Steinborn. Director of photography Ben V. Davis. Editor Alex Mackie. Costume designer Consolata Boyle. Music Alex Heffes. Production designer Eve Mavrakis. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; and the Landmark NuWilshire, 1314 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 281-8223.

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