“Me and You and Everyone We Know” is a real treasure in the guise of yet another Sundance dramedy (dare I say romantic comedy?) about quirky characters populating a quirky world. It even has that requisite cute, yet vaguely pretentious title. Never mind that this actually is another dramedy about quirky characters populating a quirky world, “Me and You” feels like a breath of fresh air, even in Park City. Acclaimed multimedia performance artist Miranda July makes a thoroughly assured debut as writer, director, and star of this uniquely sweet and often very funny confection of art, life, and love. It’s a film not to be missed by true lovers of contemporary American film.
Apparently sticking with what she knows best, July casts herself as Christine Jesperson, a lonely mixed-media artist and part-time eldercab driver (you know, a driver for old folks). John Hawkes is Richard Swersey, a recently divorced shoe salesman and father of two boys, Peter (14) and Robby (7). Fate would clearly have these two meet cute without too much fuss. But of course, such stories require conflict and thus while Christine is attuned to such a thing as fate, Richard is apparently not. Before he can ever recognize the possibility of new love right standing in front of him, he must first come to grips with being a single father in the 21st century. According to Richard, there’s just not enough time for timeouts and occasionally some minor self-immolation is in order. In humorous subplots not that far outside the realm of reality, Richard’s oldest, Peter, is used as a sexual guinea pig for two neighborhood girls anxious to get some practice in before the eventual Big Game (“jimmy ha ha,” anyone?), while seven-year old Peter casually strikes up a risqué chatroom romance (no, it’s not as icky as you might think). Christine, meanwhile, struggles to gain acceptance at a local art gallery run by an outrageously snooty director (the parody is priceless).
As a filmmaker, July has a sublimely light touch, never threatening to resort to the precious, while being grounded in a lyrical universe of her own rendering. It’s a beautiful universe full of quasi-surreal moments and romantic reveries, where the fate of a lowly goldfish carries with it a momentous, world-altering weight. Simply put, it’s such a warm little world that you won’t very much want to ever wake up from and get on with your life. Such a gift for grounded dreaminess is all too rare in a filmmaker, and July’s is certainly worthy of some serious consideration. Onscreen, July is radiant as an oddball art-cutie, consisting of little more than her vibrant creativity and fragility (think Emily Mortimer, but taller and a bit gawkier). Her wonderful performance is complimented in every way by the rest of the fine cast, most notably Hawkes and the two boys. They bring richness to a very human film and are immensely engaging to watch. If “Me and You” ever trips up it’s in trying to create a few too many mildly eccentric types, whose subplots never add up to much more than an amusing diversion. But this is a common mistake among boutique filmmakers and is easily forgiven in light of such an assured debut.