Imagine Me and You

Imagine Me and You (2005)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Piper Perabo, Lena Headey, Matthew Goode, Anthony Head, Darren Boyd
Extras: Commentary Track, Q&A with Director and Cast, Deleted & Extended Scenes, Personal Statement by Director
Rating:

Imagine a romantic comedy that is short on comedy and even shorter on romance. Imagine a film that is duller than a pair of scissors at a garage sale. Imagine a film that makes the bile in your stomach bubble up to your throat. But most of all, imagine trying to ignore this cliché-riddled film.

"Imagine Me and You" begins with the wedding of Rachel (Piper Perabo) and Heck (Matthew Goode) and, because the script calls for it, the wedding's florist Luce (Lena Headey) passes by Rachel as she is being walked to the altar. Of course, these two exchange glances and suddenly a string of emotional fireworks explode inside the bride-to-be. From this miniscule moment of eye contact, Rachel becomes infatuated and obsessed with the florist, eventually tracking her down at her shop and inviting her over for dinner. As luck would have it, Luce turns out to be a lesbian and what follows is a series of contrived mechanizations that allows Rachel to be alone with Luce, which in turn leads to sporadic daydreams of "love" and friendly fondling. You can imagine the director, Ol Parker, trying to figure out ways for the two women to touch each other without it seeming unnatural, unbelievable or completely awkward. Then, you can imagine him thinking up a scene where Rachel and Luce are at a soccer match and Luce impresses Rachel by screaming at the players in piercing tones. Can you imagine what happens next? Rachel asks Luce to "teach" her how to project her voice, listening as Luce talks about tensing the stomach muscles and broadening her diaphragm, then she gets behind Rachel and seductively wraps her arms around her stomach. If you're feeling queasy from this over-complicated chain of events, I completely understand. Anyway, Rachel's husband eventually suspects that something is wrong with the marriage, but never guesses that his new bride has a near-psychotic crush on another woman. Incidentally, we know that Rachel and Luce pine for each other because there are several scenes devoted to them ruminating as they stroll through lonely streets and parks while staring off into the distance. After only two meetings, these women suddenly act as though they've been committing adultery for years (keep in mind they haven't even kissed yet) and Rachel defiantly states that she "can't do this" anymore, then proceeds to make out with Luce as romantic music swells in the background, signaling that true love is not gender specific. I won't give the ending away, but if you're even faintly familiar with romantic comedy formulas then you can imagine what will happen next.

Unsuccessfully tackling different themes regarding love, director Ol Parker displays lofty ambitions, focusing on love at first sight, the enduring happiness of love, the pressures of trying to find love and how love has no boundaries. Parker even adds in the optimistic side of love (Rachel's view of Luce and Heck's view of Rachel), as well as the cynical side of love (represented by Luce's Mom, who doesn't feel the need to find a man and Rachel's Dad, who constantly questions his marriage, all the way to Heck's best friend Cooper, a gallivanting skirt-chaser with low morals and a deteriorating conscience). What's frustrating is that Parker spreads the net so wide that he completely loses focus and eventually these themes get tangled. Characters begin to contradict each other, robbing us of the trust Parker has sought to establish. All of a sudden, the cynical characters turn on a dime and become positive, just because Parker arbitrarily feels the need to make the story as homogenized as possible.

Another problem stems from Rachel's sudden transformation into a lesbian. There is no slow build-up to her change (nor is there any evidence that this is something that's been brewing underneath the surface, or something that has occurred in her past). Parker attempts to add depth to Rachel's dilemma, but his whimsical approach to her character doesn't mesh well with the supporting players, who all seem to be grounded in reality and, as a result, our sympathies begin to lie with her husband. Why should we pull for Rachel when her actions seem to be superficial? Rachel's world appears to be one of isolation and negativity. Her Dad is a crazy loon who regrets having gotten married, her Mom constantly nags and screams at her family and her husband Heck is stuck in a thankless job surrounded by liars and cheaters. No wonder Rachel seeks the solace of another person (or at least harbors the idea of it for the majority of the film). Parker doesn't explore this though; he's more concerned with putting up a hokey facade to explain Rachel's 360 degree turn. A more daring film would run with this conceit (nothing Parker points to explains why Rachel would be into the same sex), instead of trying to hide behind the clichéd "love at first sight" angle, which is consistently touched upon by various cast members, especially Rachel's annoying little sister "H" who repeatedly transforms into an oracle of wisdom, giving advice beyond her years like a mini Dr. Phil. It would have been far more honest and believable if Rachel sought Luce's attention because of Rachel's lackluster and boring life.

While the initial concept has potential, it quickly unravels over the blandest of storytelling constructs. Never is there a substantial moment where Rachel questions her sexuality (the closest we get to her dealing with this is when she asks some female co-workers if they've ever been attracted to other women). It seems that Rachel is more concerned with the rights and wrongs of infidelity than with wondering why she suddenly has lesbian leanings. As such, we're privy to a plethora of sitcom-style antics that "comically" detail Rachel's newfound sexuality. In a scene that would make the writers of "Three's Company" cringe, Rachel goes to the video store and, apparently consumed with thoughts of Luce, rents a girl-on-girl porno film named "Georgie's Bush" (are you laughing yet?). Of course, the video is out, so the cashier has to make a big production out of it, which gives enough time for Rachel's Mom to conveniently pop into the store. If you're slapping your knee already, then you're in for a tasty treat since this scene drags on for about twenty years and even extends to the next scene.

The cast does their best with the flimsy, wrongheaded material, even though the leads have less chemistry than a liberal arts college. The only saving grace comes from two supporting actors who add much needed jolts of anarchistic wit to the film. Anthony Head as Rachel's Dad stumbles around his scenes in a barely coherent stupor, garbling his lines drunkenly. There's a candor to his performance and the outrageous dialogue that emerges from his mouth stings, especially when compared to the prim and proper British-ness of the other actors. Also puncturing this pretentiousness is Heck's best friend Cooper, played with sarcastic charm by Darren Boyd. Oozing with the sleaze of a womanizing cad, Boyd has all the best lines in the film, relishing in the bilious nature of his role. Without these two disrupting the staid and shallow atmosphere, "Imagine Me and You" would have been an even lesser effort.

Through their Fox Searchlight division, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents "Imagine Me and You" in an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 ratio, as well as in a Full Frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The DVD comes double-sided, with the widescreen version on one side and the Full Frame on the other. On the whole, the transfer is nicely done, with only a couple of instances of slight edge enhancement. Colors are well rendered, with warm, yellowish tones in interior scenes (except in scenes at Heck's office, which are cold, grey and dreary) and bright blues, reds and greens in exterior ones. A strange thing I did notice though were a couple of instances where it seemed like the white balance was a little off, with the exposure coming across too bright, causing the images to look washed out.

The soundtrack is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround and Spanish Dolby Surround. Dialogue is clean and crisp, relegated to the front channels and ambient sounds are well utilized in the surrounding channels. The mostly acoustical score provides enough punch to hammer home the ideas in the already overly melodramatic scenarios. The Turtles song "Happy Together" (you knew it was going to come into play after seeing the film's title) ends the film with a sappy, sentimental emotional payoff. Subtitle options include English, Spanish and French.

In terms of Extras, we first have a Feature Commentary by Director/Writer Ol Parker. Parker provides some interesting facts about the production, even though he tends to be a tad on the dry side. He comes across as extremely humble and continually points out his mistakes and shortcomings as a first-time director. What I found most interesting is that he mentions several problems that I had with the film, like the choice to make Heck a likeable character, the improbability of all the coincidental encounters, the cheap laughs that didn't work (like that prominent porno video scene) and how the film was originally conceived as a straight romantic comedy, instead of a same-sex movie. While Parker addresses these issues, he also writes many of the problems off by commending the actor's abilities to make the material work. Unfortunately, I didn't arrive to this same conclusion.

Next is the Director's Statement; an odd letter that Parker recites over a montage of scenes from the film. Apparently, this was something he wrote when proposing his idea of the movie to the studio. In it, he speaks about "love at first sight" and how "Imagine Me and You" is a story about passion that cannot be denied and how you can't over analyze love…it just "is." This feature runs a little over 3 minutes long.

We also get Deleted and Extended Scenes with Introduction/Commentary by Director/Writer Ol Parker, with the option to watch the scenes without the Introduction and Commentary. These scenes add a little more dimension to the characters and provide background information before certain scene transitions. One deletion explains how Rachel eventually drops her wedding ring into a punchbowl (which originally had me baffled) and another depicts how Luce and her Mom got to the fireworks celebration (which still would have been a coincidence uneasy to overlook). All in all, it's pretty clear why these scenes didn't make the final cut.

Lastly, there is a Q and A with the Director and Cast that runs a little over 19 minutes long. Ol Parker covers much the same ground as he did in the commentary, touching on the optimistic way the film discusses issues. Interestingly again, he discusses his failings as a first-time director whenever he revisits the film. Piper Perabo and Lena Headey are interviewed simultaneously and provide some giddiness to the sterile environment. Here, they answer questions about love at first sight and if they thought they should have had more sex in the film. Finally, there is an interview with Matthew Goode, who talks about his character and the relationship between Heck and Rachel. He also discusses his preparation for the role and whether or not he thinks he's being typecast as a "wounded soul." The interviews are slightly above average and, if you have any interest in the film, then this is fairly informative.

"Imagine Me and You" sets up an unconventional concept but undermines it with a by-the-numbers approach. Too cute and pretentious for its own good, it lacks backbone and, as a result, ends up being superficial. Without the lesbian love angle, the film would be a generic bottom-feeder in the annals of romantic comedies. Imagine avoiding this trifle and saving yourself the indignity of having your intelligence insulted.

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