There's this narrative, it's not exactly a cliché, it's sort of gone beyond that -- it's so pervasive and deeply ingrained that it's become like one of those collective unconscious/Joseph Campbell things. It's a marker of the Independent Film, especially when writ in capital letters. It goes something like this: A quirky misfit with a broken-but-resilient heart longs for connection/community/a sense of home. Is misunderstood/overlooked/aggrieved by his/her oddball sensibilities. Has many endearing mishaps and cringe-inducing adventures during which he/she meets other colorful kindred spirits and finds acceptance. This ragtag alliance forms a family more genuine than any you could find by conventional standards. Things Are Better. Roll credits (preferably over some undiscovered, deeply strange music). See Mystery Train. King of Hearts. Bagdhad Café. What's Eating Gilbert Grape. The Station Agent. Um, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer...
Me and You and Everyone We Know is essentially this very movie -- same quest, new eccentric. The funny thing is, it won a special prize at the Sundance Film Festival for "Originality of Vision," and in my opinion, completely deserved it. Miranda July has the oddest, most tender, downbeat-but-unfailing optimism that has ever been committed to film. Lest you think she's some kind of Frank Capra, let me assure you that she doesn't skirt around the issue of existential despair, especially the numbing, every-day pain of simple loneliness. Her wisp-of-a-heroine is such a marginalized odd duck that she fixates on an awkward shoe-salesman at the local discount department store as the answer to life's immeasurable emptiness. He's looking for meaning too, in his own askew way. Meanwhile, she makes earnest, profoundly goofy video art with the help of the senior citizens she carts around as part of her "Elder Taxi" day job. There are many interrelated characters and bizarre subplots we also follow, including the most hilarious skewering of the art-world curatorial process I've ever encountered.
What's so surprising about Me You is not its ingenious use of, say, self-immolation, emoticons, experimental fellatio, or the topic of poop, but Miranda July's absolute refusal to be ironic. Ever. Her vision is so guileless it's unnerving, and makes the film feel incredibly fresh. And so, no matter how much irony-baggage you schlep with you to the movie theatre, no matter how smart you think you are, no matter how far off you think you can spot a Joseph Campbell archetype coming at you, you find yourself completely & utterly disarmed by her touching riff on what it means to connect with other human beings. How, I wonder, did this glorious misfit of a movie ever get made?
As I left my neighborhood theatre on a Wednesday night, I actually said a little prayer of thanks for the lovable people I'd just gotten to know. As I did so, I passed, in no particular order: a man in a skeleton costume playing the accordion; a 50-something khaki-clad couple holding hands and wearing, inexplicably, matching balloon hats; a group of giggling teenaged gymnasts cavorting down the sidewalk on their hands; a string quartet doing a cover of Van Halen's Jump, and my favorite homeless guy Robert, sporting a hot pink umbrella with matching boa and lipstick. And it struck me that maybe the reason I loved this movie so much is that the narrative isn't just familiar -- it's my own. Granted, I've never purposefully set my hand on fire, but I have been one of those lost souls wandering here-there-and-everywhere craving to connect, and the Bay Area is where I finally found what I was looking for. My own personal Island of Misfit Toys -- that freakish, inimitable thing called Home.