Outside of Barbra Streisand, who hasn't made a movie in years, I can't name any female writer/director/stars currently working in America. Can you? So I was anxious that multidisciplinary artist Miranda July's debut feature – starring herself as a struggling multidisciplinary artist – wouldn't just be a vanity project. Thankfully, there's so much happening in this film that I easily let go of my usual skepticism about director/stars, and enjoyed Me and You as a work of art.
Set in a nameless town (shot in Los Angeles, but presumably modeled after Portland, where July most recently lived), the film looks at two lonely losers (July, John Hawkes) and the oddball family members and neighbors who surround them. Its laconic pace, eerily precocious children, bleak suburban setting, and deviant sexuality reminded me at first of Todd Solondz, but July lacks Solondz's self-conscious nihilism, finding instead a sort of sweetness within even the creepiest kink. (A major subplot involves Hawkes's young boy's hilarious exchanges with an adult female in a sex chatroom; meanwhile, two adolescent girls become the subject of fascination for a pervy neighbor.)
Me and You is a genuine original – smart, often very funny, a tad oblique – never sacrificing its eccentric sense of storytelling and character for a more traditional way out. July keeps her film true to her own unusual world view (best personified in her real-life "Learning to Love You More" web site/interactive art project); either that or she's such an outsider that she's simply ignorant of normal screenplay structure. Regardless, if you can get past the occasional quirky-precious dialogue, you'll find much to admire in Me and You and Everyone We Know. Hopefully this film will do well enough to fund July's future projects – provided she doesn't sell out. God knows, we need more great female filmmakers out there, and I don't mean Betty Thomas.