We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Me and You and Everyone We Know_: I hope not · 11 July 05

Dear Miss Vane,

I haven’t left a movie before it was over since the 2nd time my younger daughter, Miss Yvette Drake, and I went to the movies together. That’s 4 years worth of many movies. Yvette & I have been going out to the movies and renting them and watching them home together at least once a week (sometimes twice) between May and September, and again on all her holidays home from Sweet Briar. We began with either Topsy Turvy (on Gilbert and Sullivan) or the film adaptation of House of Mirth (very powerful), but then we came (innocently on my part) to see The Gladiators. The mindless violence (horrific I thought), flashing lights, and sheer loud decibels (noise) of The Gladiators were so assaulting I couldn’t take it any more after 20 minutes and had to leave.

I lasted in Me and You and Everyone We Know for about the same twenty minutes. The reviewer in the New Yorker tells nothing of the story and for the most part uses the generalized euphemisms typical of discourse published about books and films; still he distinctly did not recommend it on the grounds it was "unsavoury." It is. Miranda July (director and writer of the screenplay) kept me on the edge of my seat, sometimes with my head averted, as I waited for the next instance of petty (nasty too) sordidness or humiliation.

One key note of the picture seems to be queasy behavior enforced on some teenagers susceptible to edgy bulliness by others. One fat young man puts horrible notes about what he wants the young girl’s to do in front of him on his windows. This includes touching themselves on their breasts, peforming variations of fellatio and abasing themselves in various postures before him. They fight over who is to do it all the while one half-coerces the other to allow her to put make-up on her face which is too dark for her. I left when this pair had barged into a young boy’s house and were beginning to harass and put a pillow before his face. He had preparing gifts (ultasweet wrapped candy) for them to pay them for what they were going to do in front of him and to him.

He is one of two boys whose father and mother have broken up and we watch him on the Net. The pop idea about the Net seems to be it is made up of anonymous people who write sexually disgusting lines or play false games with other people using one liners. Lurid gleams comes out of this young boy’s eyes as he types away in front of his younger brother (7 is apparently as yet too young for the joys of life and the Net).

A second key note—matching the first—is characters who are desperate and either hurt themselves or reach out to others in ways that offend them. The boys’ father as the picture opens is being left by the boys’ mother. We see him pour what looks like lighter fluid on his hands and I really thought he was going to burn himself alive in front of us (averted my head then). But no. This was mere titillation; we next see him with a bandaged hand. The joke: he used the wrong kind of fluid; he meant to use the stuff which doesn’t burn the hand, the kind magicians use to perform tricks in front of audiences. He of course works in a shoe store. This is very low in our society. His conversations with his fat male "colleague" consist of the colleague using the word fuck a lot: this young man’s dream is to spend his days endlessly fucking.

A young woman who drives a car for the elderly for a living enables us to visit a very elderly couple who are also sent up as pathetic. She appears mindless, buys shoes that hurt her and keeps pointing to a sore under her ankle. It’s her fault as her ankle is pitched low. But, as she says and apparently really believes, it’s her fault. She needs to get used to these aching burning sores.

The feel or pace of the movie reminded me of Lovely and Amazing, another film directed by a woman who also wrote the screenplay, Nicole Holofcener. Like Lovely and Amazing, Me and You and Everyone We Know moves inconsequentially and seems to be about everyday happenings which don’t get into traditional plots. So far are they both women’s movies, but there the resemblance ends. For Lovely and Amazing while showing us vulnerable emotions, has compassion and dignity and
is not luridly exploitative.

One problem feminism has had all along is that when you open the Pandora’s box, you may find as ugly and leering a sensibility as ever was disguised by displaced censored or socially-shaped patriarchal plot-design. I remember reading something Andrea Dworkin wrote about recent feminists who are gung-ho for ruthless capitialism. She said she’d rather there not have been a movement, if this is what it was bringing forth (or words to this effect). Another where she or someone else wrote of how sexual liberation has made women’s bodies available to men on command: a teenage girl goes out with a boy for a hot dog and may find him assuming and ready to bully her to fuck in payment? If this is feminism, spare us.

July also gets a kick of out photgraphing fat people dressed in the absurd pop clothes of our era, walking in ostentatiously luxurious department stores with their thousands of alike objects. One character in the film is a 40 year old woman who lives across the street from the boys. The actress has a tight face, half-angry and sullen. She reminded me of John Huston’s daughter, only thinner. This was the second un-nauseating character who seemed to have some thoughts in her mind in the whole movie. What they were one couldn’t say. Sour disgust?

Are two characters enough to suggest that the the joking atmosphere of the movie is an ironic shield? I think not. Some may say so, but if so the audience didn’t get it. The audience sat there mostly laughing. July was pushing shit in our face and telling us to lap it up. Her older woman was not presented with any understandable commentary. When last seen the young girl who drives a car for the elderly and presses the car pedal all the livelong day with burning ankles was trying to make up to the father of the two boys who works in a shoe store and he was throwing her out of his car as unworthy of him. How dare she get into his car and ask for a ride to hers on the other end of the parking lot? Poor thing. No networking abilities.

When I was in my teens I met peers who behaved openly like all
the people in the movie but the older woman and the young girl who was driving cars for the elderly. I got out of their company in a few minutes whenever I came across such a person once I reached about age 14 and understood what they were (representatives of the worst of human nature let loose with no compensation on offer) and what could only be coming from them (dull banal pettiness and humiliations). To July I’d say only this is not the whole of life and you have made the whole of your movie. In the theatre Isabel and I were in not all the people laughed at the fat young man’s notes on the window.

I actually suddenly rushed out. Yvette followed. A few minutes before in the movie where the young boy was preparing himself came out in the room in order to offer himself up to the two girls’ apparent delectation, I had offered to go out of the theatre and sit in the car and wait until the movie was done if she wanted to sit through it. We had a CD in the car of Patrick Truill reading the infinitely preferable HMS Suprise by Patrick O’Brien. But she followed me out, apparently herself unenthusiastic.

We got to listen to this novel on the way back. It took me some minutes to calm down from having escaped this loathsome repulsive film. Slowly I felt myself healed by the quiet charm of Truill’s reading of a reasonably witty and sometimes charming text. Jim says (probably rightly) that O’Brien is Tory subporn. Some of it. But I can listen to O’Brien dreaming of Stephen Maturin. And I’d a thousand times more have portraits of the falsifying type Sophie Williams represents than July’s everyone we know (though I admit O’Brian’s depiction of mothers is a bit hard to take as unlike Austen and his other models he doesn’t seem to understand why they try to protect their daughters).

In the mode of Leavis, You and Me and Everyone We Know is
a movie to cross off your list Miss Vane.

Miss Sylvia Drake

Posted by: Ellen

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  1. Thanks, Ellen. I’ll certainly skip it.

    Laura Kennelly    Jul 11, 9:35am    #

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