by Sheri Boggs & r & Me and You and Everyone We Know & r & For all the being smooshed together on mass transit and people nearly humping your back in the QFC checkout line, the big city can be an incredibly isolating place. Sure, there are people everywhere, but do you know any of them? Do any of them see you back? Performance artist Miranda July's astonishing directorial debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know, was the first movie I saw upon moving to Seattle, and it couldn't have been a better parable for our need for connection in the face of urban antipathy.
Me and You takes place in Portland, but this Portland is more Slums of Beverly Hills So Cal than the familiar mecca of bookstores and bridges you might expect. Christine (July) works as an ElderCab driver, but in her private time tranforms her loneliness into strange and lovely video art projects involving goofy voice-over interactions and other people's photos. Richard (John Hawkes) sells shoes in the local mall while nursing the wounds -- both internal and external -- of having just been dumped by his wife. Never before have two characters been more clearly meant for one another -- both Christine and Richard are the sort of tenderhearted people who fixate on small creatures, believe in rituals and talk about karma -- and yet neither has any idea how to reach the other without being overwhelming or gun-shy.
Richard's two sons (Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff) are themselves just discovering the weird push-pull cadences of romance. The "everyone they know" includes the neighbor girl obsessed with small home appliances, a pair of teenage Lolitas who dog their steps home from school and even "Untitled," the mystery woman they meet online.
As for July, she's a revelation. It's not only in her wide blue eyes, ectomorphic awkwardness or straight-out-of-1983 blouses, but also in the way she embodies a character who can't help but do the wrong, un-cool, cringe-inducing thing, over and over again, and yet somehow make it beautiful. As a director, she celebrates the absurd -- whether it's a glimpse of the ElderCab logo (a speeding cane) or the goosey hilarity of her own voice when impersonating a man. Her use of color -- the yellowish bile of Richard's apartment walls, the black uniform of the art world insider -- is a language unto its own. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Christine's love of pink: The color of femininity, sweetness and childhood, as well as the color of naughty bits and soft underbellies, pink infuses July's urban landscape with desirous, resilient hope.
Is it precious? Remarkably, not really. It's dirty in all the right places and just plain mysterious in others. It's a rare film that portrays adults approaching sex with the wondrous cluelessness of children and shows children as innocently sexual beings (but sexual all the same). In July's modern fable of connection and fate, it all just somehow works.
Playing at the Panida, Sept. 22-24. Rated R.