Imagine Me and You

(Ol Parker, 2005, USA/UK/GERMANY)


The pop classic "Happy Together" by The Turtles is irresistible to filmmakers, whether they are creating formulaic romantic comedies or sombre art movies.

There is something about the relentless, almost military beat of the song and the way it inexorably builds in intensity – not to mention its splendidly daggy lyrics ("How is the weather?") – that makes it an especially fitting accompaniment to a film’s finale.

Imagine Me and You borrows its title from the first line of that song, and concludes with a joyous montage that links up all its characters as they listen to and sing snatches of it. Although it takes quite a while to manoeuvre all these pieces into position, the film is worth persevering with. Like the song, it grows on you.

In the time-honoured fashion of romantic comedy, the plot hinges on an encounter that diverts those involved from their established life plans. At her wedding to Heck (Matthew Goode), Rachel (Piper Perabo) meets the florist, Luce (Lena Headey). Their instant friendship is slightly disturbed when Rachel is made to realise that Luce is gay. But greater disturbances are to come as Rachel realises a few more things about herself.

Imagine Me and You takes us back to the day, not so long ago, when pop culture was hot for "lipstick lesbians". Rachel and Luce are modelled on the Sex and the City image of young adult women: gorgeous, well dressed, creative, absolutely "mainstream" in their behaviour, lifestyle and career orientation. There is not a butch dyke in sight to detract from this rosy romantic fantasy of a world in which sexual difference or identity politics scarcely exist.

In this, Imagine Me and You makes for a fascinating comparison with Transamerica (2005). In that film, being different (switching one’s gender from male to female) entails concerted work and no small amount of agony. For Rachel, however, the seemingly overnight switch from straight to gay comes with no doubts, no questions, no trauma and no fumbling: she simply "follows her heart" and crosses the tracks. How easy it looks!

Writer-director Ol Parker, in his debut picture, makes it a point of honour not to demonise any of the characters, while nonetheless underlining their flaws – and, in this delicate balancing act, the film is much more satisfying than Transamerica.

British romantic comedies in the Working Title mode frequently drop the ball when dealing with the love lives of older characters, but here the testy interplay between Tessa (Celia Imrie) and Ned (Anthony Head), Rachel’s parents, is captivating.

Goode gives the thankless role of the "abandoned straight guy" a winning sensitivity and charm. And even Cooper (Darren Boyd), the resident sexist cad, gets a chance to convince us that he is not all bad.

© Adrian Martin February 2006

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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