January 24, 2006

Imagine Me & You

Imagine Me & You is the most enjoyable British rom-com in a while. It features likable characters, sharp and biting humour, a decent soundtrack, and lively pacing. It would be above-average standard fare except for two things: the obstacle between the two lovers is a likable, decent, funny man when it would be far easier if he weren't, and the two lovers themselves happen to both be women.
I'll jump back the fact that, yes, this is a gay movie in a second. First I must draw attention to the absolutely smartest decision the filmmakers have made: They actually used the song the film is named after in the film. On the reverence scale from the American Pie movies — no use of the song or even a reference to it — all the way up to Pretty Woman this film neatly slides into place at the latter. Almost everyone knows the song, and as the movie goes along it teases with traces of it from whistling passer-by and the like. At the climax it takes an utterly central role. Some may consider it an overbearing artistic footprint on the work, but I loved it.
Now back to the gay stuff. This is more Notting Hill than Brokeback Mountain, and the movie doesn't get dragged down by it. That it is stirs up the emotions it does is less because the affair is between two women and more because the movie makes the man that would be left in their wake, Heck, at least as sympathetic as they are. That being the case, I found my own emotions perfectly aligned Rachel, the bride. Heck deserves happiness, but so does she, and even if she stays will either of them be truly happy with the lie?
The home wrecker Luce (looking like Kiera Knightley will in a decade should she be very, very lucky) is no less likable or deserving of happiness than Heck. She lives with her mum, who is comforting and sympathetic but also depressed and unmotivated. She runs a flower shop where customers seem to perpetually arrive at exactly the wrong moment. She's not entirely sure she wants to break up Rachel and Heck either and so doesn't make a movie. Their relationship progresses through inference and subtext. You can undoubtedly guess how things resolve themselves, so I will only add that the movie raises the stakes higher and makes the costs higher than its brethren in the genre.
The true surprise is the dialog, which fires along like a Richard Curtis drive-by. If you like his scripts you'll feel comfortable here. If I had to pinpoint a key difference it'd be that Ol Parker is meaner, more shocking,1 and more unpredictable. Rachel's father Ned ("Buffy"'s Anthony Head) and Heck's licentious best friend Coop nearly steal the film. They are, as Henry Higgins would say, most original moralists. Even with the girl-on-girl twist, it's these two characters that elevate the movie from the sea of bland competitors.
When it comes right down to it, we have seen this same basic film plenty of times before. What makes me recommend this film so highly is it does those same old things in an exceptionally engaging way. There is a scene between Heck and his eight- or nine-year-old niece that would be a cutesy bit of role reversal. Here it works on a more truthful level. Were it not for a post credits scene that lets the movie off the hook too easily, it would have been an entirely satisfying experience. ()


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