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Me and You and Everyone We Know

(2005) ** 1/2 R
93 min. IFC Films. Director: Miranda July. Cast: Miranda July, John Hawkes, Miles Thompson, Brandon Ratcliff, Carlie Westerman.

How bearable you'll find Me and You and Everyone You Know has everything to do with your tolerance for stylized indie poetry, played mostly in a quirky, anesthetized deadpan. Take the shoe salesman who explains, "I don't want to have to do this, this living. I just walk around. I want to be swept off my feet, you know? I want my children to have magical powers. I am prepared for amazing things to happen. I can handle it."

Every character wears a blank stare in the directorial debut of performance artist Miranda July. There's certainly a vision here, and certain of the episodes are more winning than others, but on the whole, I found Me and You and Everyone You Know off-putting. The "Me," I suppose, is video artist Christine (played by the director). She's also an Elderbus driver who befriends her clientele and makes them a part of her art, which has so far failed to penetrate the local Center for Contemporary Art.

One day she meets that shoe salesman (John Hawkes), a borderline individual who horrifyingly acts out in the film's first scene, yet retains custody of his two boys when he and his wife separate. The boys, Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff), find solace in their computer, a portal to adult sexuality that stokes Peter's pubescent needs—soon, he's the prized (and wholly objectified) judge of an oral-sex contest between two girlfriends. The internet positively entrances six-year-old Robby, who becomes accidently adept at IM sex, foreshadowing an eventual live meeting with an online sex partner.

July deserves credit for going out on her suburban limbs, and her refusal to moralize about her characters' circumstances and choices is, to some degree, refreshing. Still, the resulting film is pokey and only scintillating in spurts, and the performance style—though fitting and amusing on the unflappably pre-mature kids—can be maddening among the adults.

July refuses to cohere the plot threads into a theme (again, from one standpoint, this refusal might be a relief), preaching only to live and let live. A climactic bit of business at picture's end says it all about Me and You and Everyone We Know. A man flips a coin at a bus stop. The six-year-old boy wanders up and asks, "What are you doing that for?" The man replies, "I'm just passing the time."

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