Me and You and Everyone We Know
dir: July
Opens Fri July 1
Cinema 21

On behalf of waiters everywhere, I feel compelled to issue the following edict: START DRINKING FUCKING MERLOT AGAIN! Since Sideways came out last year, pinot noir has been flying off the shelf, and any poor sap who didn't see the Giamatti flick and tries to enjoy a glass of merlot at a restaurant is automatically ridiculed by his or her lame-ass friends. "I'm not drinking any fucking merlot" has become the new "Show me the money," and it's time to put that shit to rest already.

Luckily, a new contagious movie catchphrase is on the way, and I'm counting down the minutes until I hear a pair of diners talking about wanting to "Poop back and forth forever." The phrase is from the sweetest scatological scene in film history, courtesy of the amazing, heart tugging Me and You and Everyone We Know.

The plot of Me and You is only scaffolding for the story it tells, which is something different entirely. Ex-Portlander Miranda July--who wrote, directed, and stars in this, her debut film--plays Christine Jesperson, a multimedia artist whose home recordings and videos were obviously influenced by July's own background in performance and sound art. To pay the bills, Christine works for Elder Cab, a taxi service for senior citizens. While taking her elder buddy Michael (Hector Elias) to buy a new pair of shoes, she meets Richard (Deadwood's John Hawkes), a recently divorced shoe salesman, with whom she begins a mercurial courtship. Hawke's Richard--a romantic who has been wounded in love--is upstaged only by his children, Peter and Robby (Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff), who live with their father part-time, lead private lives where they silently mourn their parents' divorce, begin sexual explorations in the midst of family longing, befriend a neighbor girl who has a melancholic retail obsession, and get in over their heads in an adult chatroom. Throw in a lonely art curator (kudos for the most accurate art world depiction in recent film history), another shoe salesman whose own desires terrify him, and two tween girls who are discovering the power of their own sexuality, and you have the general outline of the movie.

But again: Me and You is not about the plot. It's about characters, and more specifically, the way they choose to interact. In 2002, July and Harrell Fletcher founded Learning To Love You More, an interactive web-art program. Broadly, the strategy of LTLYM is to create social systems that encourage authentic human involvement and interactions, despite the seemingly flippant nature of the personal assignments the project proposes (like growing a garden somewhere unexpected, or taking a picture of people holding hands). This theme of an endless search for new ways of communication runs through almost every scene in Me and You.

In one scene, just after Christine and Michael leave a department store, they find that the people driving in front of them have unwittingly left a goldfish in a baggie on top of their SUV. As another car sees the impending fish tragedy, they begin to work in tandem with Christine and Michael to somehow spare the fish's life--while whispering tearful prayers, they all collaborate on timing, braking, and interception to rescue the goldfish. For the fish, the question of life and death is imminent, but for the rest of the film's characters, their salvation depends on sidestepping fear, loneliness, depression, and pain. To that end, each character is engaged in one contemporary system or another where they long to connect with somebody else: Chat rooms, video cameras, inspirational T-shirts, dares and double-dares, make-believe narratives, impromptu rituals, and hand-written signs that belie their author's deepest desires are all used as ways to get close to one another.

Me and You and Everyone We Know contains moments of pure hilarity, weird creepiness, and lip-quivering tenderness. But even more than that, the film is filled with moments where you will be absolutely silent, absorbed in the fears, hopes, and secrets of its amazing characters. Characters who, like the audience, will hopefully discover their own means to poop back and forth forever.