Written and Directed by Miranda July
– John Hawkes as Richard Swersey
– Miranda July as Christine Jesperson
– Miles Thompson as Peter
– Brandon Ratcliff as Robby
If Zach Braff and David Gordon Green conferred in the deepest, darkest corner of hell, removed each other’s genitals with piano wire, feverishly slammed the dripping remains into a filthy blender, added liberal helpings of bile, excrement, and the entrails of mutilated infants, and then — and only then — shot the concoction at a blank canvas, the end result might approach what I witnessed in any given moment of Me and You and Everyone We Know; not only the worst film of the year, but one so repugnant to reason that I may be forced to endure several dozen more screenings of Fantastic Four to remove the deep, unshakable odor. From the opening scene — a dual disaster whereby one character sets his hand on fire while the other “creates” bizarre, unwatchable performance art — I knew I was in for an unmitigated disaster; the sort of crime against the cinema that one encounters only on occasion, but with increasing frequency in an independent film scene that has now institutionalized the belief that madness and advanced, incurable retardation are endearing quirks that, by fiat, must be celebrated as genuine alternatives to everyday living. It should surprise no one that writer/director/star Miranda July (a silly stage name if there ever was one — she probably had her first period in that month or something) is, in real life, the sort of performance artist she portrays on screen, which provides the only evidence we really need as to her twisted mental state. If there’s a group of folks in this wide, wretched world that deserves the same sort of unending contempt reserved for Christians and Republicans, it is these overly precious, colossally untalented wretches; human beings so childishly needy and narcissistic that they wail with the sadness of a hungry newborn when the world fails to recognize that yes, the rusty toilet fastened to the ceiling is in fact symbolic of patriarchy’s determined hold on the politics of the Western world.
Ms. July portrays Christine, a woman from a world no one of good sense would ever recognize, who operates a business called “Elder Cab,” a taxi service for equally intolerable senior citizens. From all appearances, she seems to only have one client, some nattering old coot who is in love with a dying woman in a retirement home. Their first scene together involves a trip to the shoe store for a pair of Nikes, which serves no other purpose than to allow her to meet Richard (John Hawkes), who sells footwear and at the same time, dispenses the sort of wisdom you’d most likely get on a crowded, urine-soaked bus at the wrong end of town. He’s a nervous, frightening-looking fellow, and as soon as he begins speaking, we know that he’s bound to fall in love with Christine because he’s her equal in the criminally insane department. Richard just separated from his wife, and he’s left caring for his two kids, who are precocious and solemn in good measure, depending of course on the requirements of the wretched screenplay.
The eldest son, Peter (Miles Thompson), doesn’t say much, but we know he’s a wise soul because he wanders around looking like he needs a nap. Peter’s younger brother is also one of those kids you’d find in a film like this; the sort of youngster who will carry on an internet sex chat, and ask that he be allowed to poop in her butt, and have her reciprocate. And back again. Needless to say, the pervert at the other end will ask to meet the child, and when it takes place on a lonely park bench, the person we suspect is a greasy child molester is actually a middle-aged woman, and one of the characters we’ve come to know in the course of the film! Standing nearby, of course, is some weirdo doing Tai-Chi, which is actually an understated distraction for someone of July’s nature. Had a nude couple strolled by engaging in a debate about existentialism while eating pizza with their feet, I would not have been shocked. That’s the kind of film this is, unfortunately.
Peter also gets blown by two neighborhood chicks, who want to hone their skills before moving on to the creepy dude who is leaving suggestive notes on his window. Before getting down to business, the girls ask for two washcloths (one dry, one wet), a towel, and two pieces of candy (preferably mints). Such a description, as bad as it is, does nothing to convey the tone of the scene, which is so phony and theatrical that no one could ever believe it. But that’s only a small slice of unconvincing bullshit that passes before our eyes. A sampling:
- Christine and her elderly friend chase down an SUV with a goldfish in a bag sitting on the roof, which flies off and lands on the trunk of a nearby vehicle. The bag eventually falls to the ground, presumably killing the fish.
- Christine narrates a video (playing both male and female parts) where two young people declare their love in language that would be too embarrassed to be featured in a greeting card.
- Christine works on her art some more, this time writing “me” and “you” on her shoes for — you guessed it — no conceivable reason.
- Christine (who else?) flirts with Richard by attaching nylons to her ears.
- A young friend of Peter’s — a girl who actually says “Sunday supplement” to a clerk — keeps a hope chest full of appliances and bath items, which she calls her dowry. Oh yes, she also spends a few moments inhaling the smell of a shower curtain.
- Christine, disturbed by the sight of Richard speaking to his estranged wife, shoves a talking picture frame at her and proceeds to redden faces everywhere with her sales pitch.
- Richard and his two sons stroll down the street singing hymns because Richard wanted to “take his hand for a walk” after removing the bandage from his self-inflicted wound.
And on and on we go, but even the most masochistic moviegoer has his limits. And even if I closed my eyes, there’d still be that horrific score, which sounds like a drunken Philip Glass blowing chunks into a tuba. Christine is cut from the same cloth as Garden State’s Braff, as she makes strange noises, writes “fuck” on her windshield, puts round, pink stickers on everything, and asks the director of an art show (within the context of her submitted video) to call her, say only “macaroni,” and hang up. And I’ll be fucked if such a call wasn’t made. Finally, Richard asks this disturbed creature over for a date, and when she catches him on his front lawn trying to hide a painting that had been defaced by his youngest son, she naturally helps him look for a more suitable tree on which to hang the work of art. Don’t you understand? This chick sees into the soul of every person and object she encounters, and art is, like, everywhere, you know? And she’d see nothing untoward about asking you to plunk down $25 for a ticket to her show, which would be nothing more than her sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room eating ice cream for 3 ½ hours.
Ignore the praise, the four-star reviews, and the cries that in Ms. July, cinema has found a striking new talent. The only justice would be for this obnoxious twit to return to her studio, keep creating for the handful of paid sycophants who convinced her that writing a screenplay was “that one thing” she just had to do, and never show her face in public again. She’s a shining example of what’s wrong with American film, even the so-called “cutting edge scene,” that is now little more than the same old bullshit with smaller catering budgets. It’s impossible to hate characters more, or be invested in their plight less, and only my wife’s strong arm kept me seated for the duration. Her sweat-filled loathing was equally as strong, but as she loves to watch me squirm through raw sewage, my pain outweighed her desire for freedom and fresh air. But we survived — barely, with the scars to prove it.