Me and You and Everyone We Know
, the 2005 debut from New York City
performance artist Miranda July
has two very beautiful themes that, to me, stuck out from all the other beautiful things in this movie.
***Spoilers lie below***.
Early in the movie, one of the many characters that inhabit the film states that “Kids their age don’t have any control over their lives” (not verbatim). This comment was made quickly, in-passing and I didn’t even think twice about it until the credits began to roll. Throughout the movie, we are treated with a plethora of fascinating characters. While they are all of multiple colors, nationalities and genders, the one think that divides them into two groups are their ages. Some of them are kids, the others are long past any age in which you would consider them “kids.” And throughout the film, it seems that the adults struggle for control over what occurs in their lives, while the children, all of which are still very young and innocent, have little struggle in taking control of their lives. Some even what the adults in the film strive for with incredible amounts of ease.
*Richard (John Hawkes) sees his once vibrant marriage fall apart. He fears losing a connection with his sons and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to connect with them anymore. His attempt to “Save his life” by setting his hand on fire fails horrendously.
*Christine (Miranda July) can’t seem to get any recognition to her performance art. When she tries showing up at a museum and handing it to the curator there, she is told to instead mail it. She goes through a great struggle trying to get Richard to fall in love with her.
*Pam (Richard’s ex-wife, JoNell Kennedy) has a scene in which she is wearing a nightgown which lists off many positive attributes about her. Richard insults her by asking if she needs the assistance of that garment that to feel good about herself, she truthfully replies that she does.
*Andrew (Richard’s co-worker, Brad William Henke) comes out of his house one morning on his day off to find two beautiful, yet underage, girls standing in front of his house. He cleverly attempts to seduce them with a series of signs on his window, yet when they finally give in and knock on his door, he hides, knowing if he answered the door he would break both law and his morals as a result.
*Michael (Hector Elias) is an elderly man who Christine drives around through her ElderCab service. He is in his 70s and after spending decades doing great things with a woman he didn’t truly love, he has finally met the woman of his dreams. But once she realizes how little time she has to live, she tells him that they cannot be together anymore. He laments how he has gotten “too old to force people to do what they don’t want to.”
*Nancy (Tracy Wright), the curator at the museum, has an incredibly limited look on how art should be. Often overlooking things because they don’t fit some sort of quota, such as being a racial minority, being a woman or being a local-working artist. As we find out in a very humorous scene, we find out she is so desperately seeking a man that she will take any opportunity regardless of how twisted a man’s view of the world may be.
As for the children…
*Peter (Richard’s early-teenage year old son, Miles Thompson) easily and effortlessly receives sexual favors from the two girls who were attempting to seduce Andrew. His and his brother’s silence towards their father place them in control of which parent they relate to (and possibly which parent will retain full custody, although this is never delved into). He also wants to make a personal connection with a younger girl named Sylvie, and easily does so.
*Sylvie (Carlie Westerman) is already preparing a dowry of kitchen appliances for the husband and daughter she plans to have in about twenty years. She already has a perfect image in her head of what her perfect kitchen and perfect parental situation would be like and she is already working hard to get it.
*Heather and Rebecca (the ones seducing Andrew, Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townsend) have full control over their sexual destinies as well. They easily get Peter to give in to their test for who is better at giving oral sex and have the upper hand when it comes to Andrew, who they wanted to have sex with in able be ready for when they had boyfriends to have sex with. As they walk away from the house, Andrew is still hiding and they leave the situation with the upper hand.
*And perhaps the biggest example of this theme would be Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), Richard’s 6 year old son. When his brother goes home sick, he walks home by himself down a street which two adults in the movie confirm is incredibly dangerous and despite their fears, is completely unharmed. He gets Nancy to meet him after meeting her in a sex chat room online, despite him not knowing anything about sex. And in the film’s final moments, he finds out the truth behind a noise he would hear every early morning at his mother’s house and thus finds out the truth that his mother never discovers (her reason for the noise is vastly different). The sound is a man waiting at a bus stop tapping a quarter against a sign while waiting. When Robby asks, he states he is “passing the time.” He then flips the quarter to Robby and he begins tapping the quarter, we then see the sun start moving faster than usual, thus indicating he is controlling time.
Me and You and Everyone We Know also makes a strong commentary on the fantastical ways in which people make contact with one another. Richard and Christine meet outside Richard’s workplace and, in a way, immediately begin talking about their prospects as a couple, after just having met. Heather and Rebecca meet Andrew when they are simply applying makeup on a street corner in front of his house and even he remarks how perfect (and flawed) it is that they met that way. Heather and Rebecca meet Peter as him and Robby are walking home and they begin acting as if they are being followed, although they are themselves following them. Sylvie and Peter meet as she is playing a strange playground game in which she acts as a “mother bird”, feeding food to the kids lying below her that chirp and later in the movie, a strange safety drill at school forces a meeting with Sylvie and Peter. Christine goes to the art museum hoping to talk to anybody about getting her art on display there and ends up running into the curator of the museum herself. As for how Robby and Nancy meet, I think one speaks for itself.
Me and You and Everyone We Know brings together a cast of nobody actors and makes them all somebody. I’ve seen movies in which child actors come across as if they were fed lines that they probably didn’t understand, but such lines might make adults laugh in the fact that a child is saying such non-child things (a la Kids Say the Darndest Things or far too many scenes in Jersey Girl…sorry Kev). Brandon Ratcliff, playing Robby, doesn’t come across like this at all. He gets it. If anything, July never gives Ratcliff any scenes in which he is supposed to seem smarter than he is. Through the entire course of the film, he is believable as a 6-year-old, even in the adult situations that he gets into. John Hawkes gives his character not only the perfect touch of sadness in the wake of his divorce, but a nice dash of minor insanity. It’s not that he’s performed as a total nutjob, as perhaps another actor may have perceived him, it’s just that he has just enough problems to understand why his social life is so drab and he couldn’t sustain his marriage. Any one who has ever dealt with the powers-that-be within any art or entertainment community would know that Tracy Wright nailed the image of the slightly pompous head honcho that isn’t quite as visionary as she’d like to be. Najarra Townsend and Natasha Slayton accurately portray the teenage girls striving to lose their innocence as Miles Thompson portrays the teenager who knows what he thinks about everything happening around him, yet gives off the impression that he just doesn’t care. The only performance in the film that I found lacking was July herself, who sometimes I found to be radically over-the-top in the portrayal of her character, a multimedia performance artist…which I’m sure doesn’t fall too far from her actual life. Yet she does deliver the goods in a number of scenes.
With the way July captured the light and colors of each scene, I was surprised to see that July shot Me and You and Everyone We Know on video using a Sony HDW-F900 CineAlta instead of on film. There have been films over the past couple of years that have convinced me that digital video has its advantages over film (28 Days Later…, Sin City and the Star Wars prequels being prime examples) yet I’ve never seen anything this vivid and this natural shot on video.
I also must comment on the unfortunate occurrence of the MPAA’s rating of Me and You and Everyone We Know. The film is rated R, which I don’t have a problem with. What I do have a problem with is their explanation on the movie poster of why it’s rated R: for “disturbing sexual content involving children, and for language.” It’s sad that the blurb of “disturbing sexual content involving children” will keep people away from this film. Especially since by MPAA standards, the sub-plot involving the underage children isn’t nearly as raunchy as, say Stifler drinking various bodily fluids throughout the American Pie movies and is more representative of what happens at that age than almost any gross-out teen movie.
With Me and You and Everyone We Know, July has crafted an interesting world of characters that I was very absorbed by as I watched them intertwine in each others lives. While the film does have very strong underlying themes as I mentioned above, even in the chance that you leave the theatre scratching your head as to what some of the movie actually meant, I’m sure you would have been happy to spend time with these characters, see their lives fold out and see them intersect.