Friday, June 16, 2006

IMAGINE ME & YOU - derivative then daring then dull

IMAGINE ME AND YOU starts as a British romantic comedy firmly in the Richard Curtis style. It is set in aspirational London - beautiful young professionals who live in apartments furnished by Heals and The White Company with the odd choice "objet" from an auction. They live in Notting Hill or Primrose Hill rather the Chelski or Mayfair and work vaguely in The City or The Arts or beautifully quaint shops. They have lovely country weddings with quirky guests giving witty speeches in clipped upper class accents. I have nothing against this except the fact that having been done so many times before (often with great box office success) it all seems a little derivative. IMAGINE AND ME AND YOU draws in its audience thanks to this easy familiarity. It starts with a wedding - between a dull but sweetly in love couple called Hector (stock-broker) and Rachel (vaguely at work in trendy office). They are played by the charming and blandly good-looking Matthew Goode and Piper Perabo. Naturally they have odd, but vaguely funny parents (Celia Imrie and Anthony Head) and a loveably sleazy best man (Darren Boyd).

Now, after about twenty minutes the movie does something rather daring and I got radically more interested. It makes the extra-marital love interest gay. So Rachel finds herself attracted to a florist named Lucy, played by
Lena Headey - an older, more charismatic version of Keira Knightley. At this point I thought to myself, wow, this is really clever. They've suckered in Middle England with a cut and paste safe as houses British rom-com but now they're going to do something daring and brilliant. Sadly, I was wrong. There is a lot of long-winded trauma concerning whether Rachel can ditch her lovely husband for the lovely florist, but then the movie snaps back into Curtis mode with a typically absurd love scene at the end. It involves people declaring their love across traffic jams atop cars. Schmaltz to the max. And in case you were wondering, absolutely no graphic lesbian sex scenes of the kind that might shock your grandmother. In fact, this film is so safe it's actually disappointing and you could get a more moving treatment of similar material in KISSING JESSICA STEIN.

Still, for about 15 minutes IMAGINE ME AND YOU was brilliant, and for the rest it was a well-acted if derivative rom-com. There's also a very funny cameo from Ben Miles as Hector's greedy capitalist bastard boss, Rob. (Exchanges like: Hector to Rob: Fuck you bonus. Rob to Hector: I wish I could!)Perfectly harmless and fine for a DVD and a dinner date, I suppose.

IMAGINE ME AND YOU showed at Toronto 2005 and went on release in the US, Australia, Israel, Greece, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK and opens in Italy later this month, in Poland in July, in Portugal in August, in Singapore in September and in France in November.

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