ARTS

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January 27, 2006

Imagine Me and You shrewdly eschews politics for cute accents and comic relief

I’m sure the reaction of everyone who’s seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, and Bridget Jones’s Diary has been: Where is that British lesbian romantic comedy with loads of sap and sass that we’ve been dying to see? After all, England has already jumped the Sapphic hurdle with the popular miniseries Tipping the Velvet and even followed it up with Fingersmith. Neither of those, however, satisfies the craving to curl up in bed with your girlfriend (or four cats) and watch a gay version of Love Actually.

Luckily, Imagine Me and You wholeheartedly satisfies that craving. Surprisingly written and directed by first-timer Ol Parker (and not Richard Curtis), the film combines top-notch comedic timing with an earnestness that only elicits groans once or twice throughout the movie—and for the remainder elicits nothing but smiles and sighs. It would probably elicit nothing but hatred from this particularly snarky critic if it hadn’t been for the rather unconventionally conventional plot.

So, the rundown: Rachel (Coyote Ugly’s Piper Perabo) and Heck (Match Point’s Matthew Goode), are getting married and seem painfully, blissfully happy. Coop (Darren Boyd), Heck’s best man and best friend, thinks marriage is boring and spends his time trying to seduce the florist, Luce (The Brothers Grimm’s Lena Headey). Rachel walks down the isle, Heck smiles at her, and she glances to the side, locking eyes with Luce. From that moment on the movie goes through surprisingly uncharted territory. What does the bride do if she falls in love with a woman as she walks down the aisle? Rachel’s confusion, Luce’s moral obligation, and the two cents of everyone else involved make for an interesting tangle of events and a satisfying conclusion. It does not gloss over the bittersweet fact that in a romantic triangle, someone always gets hurt—even if the two leads end up happily together.

Of course, what one enjoys in these lovely Anglophilic romantic comedies is not the plot (which is always the same, even with different genders involved), but the accents, the gorgeous actors, the cinematography, the comic relief—and this movie has some memorable comic relief in the form of Coop, the Shallow but Perspicacious Best Friend. At one point, Rachel and Heck are grocery shopping when they run into Luce and her best friend, and the awkwardness is deliciously visualized as a runaround with loaded-down shopping carts and shouting across aisles. The subdued chemistry between Rachel and Luce provides moments of sincerity and loveliness between those typically comic tableaus.

Last on the list to discuss: politics. It is a law that any movie with an inch of gayness must be commented on in terms of political backlash or forwardlash. The fabulous thing about Imagine Me and You is exactly what I loved about Kissing Jessica Stein: Not an inch of politics or gender studies or irritating labeling gets in the way of what one really wants out of a romantic comedy—a romantic comedy, no strings attached. That’s the post-political treatment of homosexuality in film I hope to see much more of in the future. (I also wouldn’t mind if it were in the form of gorgeous women with British accents, but I won’t discriminate.) Maybe we’re entering an age where movies can just happen to be gay or straight and everyone can relate—no matter what gender the romance happens to take—and where the political becomes peripheral in light of what we really want out of a movie like Imagine Me and You: old-fashioned entertainment.