Thursday, November 08, 2007


This week’s movie:


I think I’d like to vacation in Pleasantville this winter.

Why not? I hear it’s pleasant there. “Everything’s pleasant in Pleasantville.” They make sure of it. It has to beat New England winter at any rate. I go there occasionally and think about all the changes I could make with my modern-day coolness. It’s an escapist thing, I know, but everybody’s got their own way of dealing. I have a whole list of escapes – movies are good for this sort of thing. Sometimes, in my action hero fantasy, I’m Bond, James Bond – mostly just the Sean Connery Bond but occasionally, of late, I’m the new Daniel Craig Bond (not just because of Eva Green – OK, mostly because of Eva Green).

Sometimes I’m Brad Pitt. Sometimes I’m married to Angelina and run around with George Clooney and play the coolest characters in filmdom. And it’s not just because of Angelina (OK, mostly because of Angelina), it’s mainly about being the “Pitt” – oozing Bradishness – being the man. It’s the kind of charisma that causes women to swoon, and many men to reevaluate their heterosexuality looking for a possible loophole. It works for a little while but soon wears off. I know, for example that there is no such person as Brad Pitt – he exists only as pixels on my TV screen. Think about it – have YOU ever seen him in person?? Hmmmm?? Of course not - nobody has. The problem is that he has the best life, the best luck, great things happen to him, and he always knows exactly the right thing to say at all times. I can’t possibly relate to this for long.

A person that I once recommended Pleasantville to, told me that he didn’t like it because it was too “fantastic” – he likes movies that are more realistic. Not everybody buys in to the escapist possibilities of film - or - maybe he was on to something. Can realistic films be escapist? If you can make this work, it would be effective for much longer. Why? Because you have to place yourself into a movie for it to work. It’s much easier if the movie looks more like real life – and it’s much more natural if the movie looks a lot like your life. This week’s film YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW is populated with mostly unfamiliar faces. The characters don’t look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie or Sean Connery. The main character looks like me, and another looks like you and the rest looks like everybody else we know. They’re not suave, they don’t have exciting adventures, and they don’t know the right things to say.

Miranda July, who plays the lead character, wrote and directed the movie – it’s her first feature film. She gets all the important things right. The film follows a small group of characters as they try to make connections with each other while dealing with life. Does that sound familiar? It should – we all do it every day. Do you want to know the plot? That’s it!

The MPAA (those chicken sh*t bastards!) have rated this film R for “disturbing sexual content involving children”. They obviously didn’t see the same movie I did. They also didn’t see the same movie most people did, as it won the “Very Young Critics Award” in 2005. There really are times, in real life, when children come across things they shouldn’t, but the power of this film is that it doesn’t sensationalize it. Miranda July doesn’t venture into taboo territory. She may take you to a cliff and point to taboo off in the distance and say, “I could take you there – if I wanted to – but I won’t. If this was a Todd Solondz film, he would take you there and leave you without a ride home – but I won’t. I don’t have to.” She handles these instances in exactly the right way. Absolutely no one I’ve shown the movie has found this disturbing. Hollywood would have turned this into a tabloid circus instead of a normal part of life. However, if you think this is going to bother you – don’t see this movie!

YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW won big honors at Cannes and Sundance in 2005. It was a critics’ favorite. I won’t tell you more about the plot – or the characters – but you can get that info from the IMDB site. If you need more, you can read film critic Roger Ebert’s review here (don’t worry about spoilers – there’s no actual plot to give away) – he liked it a lot. Let me tell you why I like the movie.

1. It has one of the all-time funniest lines in movie-dom, involving a chat room. I could tell what it is because it’s probably almost as funny taken out of context …….but I won’t.

2. I’ve seen a lot of movies lately that venture off into taboo-land. It seems that many film-makers today feel that they need to spark controversy in order to draw attention to their movie. This week’s film doesn’t have to. It has the confidence to let its storytelling and its characters draw attention to the movie. Granted that is hasn’t gotten a lot of attention outside of critics circles, but that’s not the film’s fault. It was not deemed a moneymaker, and thus it was ignored by the studios.

3. I would rather be John Hawkes and have Miranda July fall in love with me in this movie, than be Brad Pitt and have Angelina Jolie fall in love with me in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Fewer bullets, for one thing.

4. It’s a feel-good movie with an uplifting ending and which promotes positive social values …….if you like that sort of thing. It makes you feel good – in a feel-good sort of way.

5. It has some of the most simple and yet most powerful and memorable scenes of any movie, period. Perhaps the most memorable is one in which two of the main characters walk down the sidewalk to the end of the block – yes, it’s THAT simple.

6. The characters are less like Hollywood stereotypes and more like real people you know than the majority of films you’re likely to see. I can easily identify with one of the characters (I won’t tell you which one), and I knew exactly how he was going to act – not because of any stereotypes or movie-logic rules, but because that’s what real people would do.

7. There are no contrived plot twists. On the other hand, it’s also not just a collection of random scenes. There is a quiet arc to the film that gets resolved in the final reel. Tension ….tension ….tension – and then release. Maybe there is sex in it after all.

8. The title bugs the crap out of people who are bothered by incorrect grammar. The film producers actually had enough confidence in the power of this film to risk alienating this important demographic.

9. Miranda July’s character in the film (Christine) is based very closely on herself. She is just like that in real life, cute as a button (a cute button).

10. Read Roger Ebert’s review here. “Frank. Why do you always link to Roger Ebert’s review site?” Roger Ebert is perhaps the most respected film critic in the business (He won the Pulitzer Prize). He has befriended and interviewed many many film-makers over the years, and usually has a unique perspective that many other people wouldn’t. So there! (besides, I keep hoping someday he’ll pay me)


will enjoy this movie.

view trailer


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