Feeble Attraction

Washington City Paper | February 3, 2006
Imagine Me & You asks you to imagine this: that an all-consuming, ’til-death-do-us-part love affair gets under way in even less time than it takes the Brokeback Mountain ’boys to get it on. And just like Ang Lee’s movie, Ol Parker’s debut feature doesn’t really show us the sparks of its homosexual couple’s attraction; we’re just supposed to buy that they’re there. Brokeback, granted, is in an altogether different cinematic universe than Imagine, but audiences weary of lap-dogging Oscar contenders might find a scrappy little Britflick to be just the thing at this hype-laden time of year. Or they might just like seeing a couple of pretty lesbians make out.

Imagine Me & You has a sillier premise than your average post–Four Weddings and a Funeral comedy—and surprisingly, it’s not that Piper Perabo can do an English accent. Rather, it’s that Perabo’s kittenish character, Rachel, could be walking down the aisle with the handsome man who’s been her BFF, Heck (Match Point’s Matthew Goode), lock eyes with Luce (Lena Headey), and start playing for the other team. Luce is the wedding’s florist—who somehow never had to interact with the bride—and both women do double- and triple-takes. Rachel goes through with the ceremony (the setup’s not that ridiculous) and continues her pleasant life with Heck. Only she invites Luce over for dinner, on the grounds that she’d make a good match for Heck’s horndog friend, Coop (Darren Boyd).

Soon enough, Rachel finds out that Luce is gay. From there on in, Rachel is glum around but still loving to Heck as she wrestles with the questions of sexuality and self-identity posed by her instant attraction to the femme florist. Or at least we can assume that’s what she’s doing when she begins paying decreasingly innocent visits to Luce’s shop. This is a romantic comedy, after all.

Appropriately, Parker’s script is full of Wacky British-Romantic-Comedy Humor: the running gag about people who expect Luce to put together bouquets that send ridiculously nuanced messages (“I want it to say I’m sorry his dog is dead, but not too sorry”), the fun poked at British mannerliness (Rachel and Heck stop at a park for a nighttime quickie, run into another like-minded couple—and introduce themselves). It’s all frothy and funny, as it should be. Ironically, though, the women are the least enjoyable part of this chick/chick flick (whose musical namesake is, of course, played during the supposed-to-be-triumphant last chapter). The best quips go to Coop, with Boyd angling to be the shameless, skirt-chasing Hugh Grant, and Heck, with Goode making like the charming, lovable Hugh Grant.

Not that the female leads don’t do a good job. Perabo is endearing as the frazzled, slightly goofy Rachel, and Headey makes Luce more level-headed and composed but never stiff. Parker gives his musings on life and love—to thine own self be true, basically—another layer of depth through the women’s parents: Luce’s widowed and reluctant-to-date mother (Sue Johnston) and Rachel’s bickering mum and dad (the terrific Celia Imrie and Anthony Head). The older folks’ stories, in fact, are more insightful and touching than the film’s main one. The latter even punctures the kind of romantic fantasies the film’s central relationship traffics in. Alas, that coupling falls victim to a typical cinematic flaw: resolutions that are too neat, quick, and far-fetched. It’s disappointing that Imagine Me & You’s wrap-up isn’t hard to imagine at all.

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