Damn it, I know I’m supposed to like this movie. I am a movie buff with a great deal of patience for slower, offbeat films. And Miranda July‘s directorial debut has a keen sense of character and as a writer, she’s got a terrific ear for the way people talk. The problem with this film is its lack of focus. The plot has a bad case of attention deficit disorder as July crams a Robert Altman-sized cast into its brief indie-film running time.
The film would have been better served by focusing more closely on the relationship of its central characters, socially awkward shoe salesman Richard (John Hawkes) and socially awkward aspiring performance artist Christine (July). Any one of the numerous subplots would have been interesting but just not all of them. When July titled the film “Everyone We Know,” she wasn’t kidding.
Richard is in the process of divorcing his wife, Pam (JoNell Kennedy) and sharing custody of their two sons Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff). Christine is paying the bills, working for a company that taxis elderly shut-in around the city, although she seems to have only one customer, Michael (Hector Elias) a man who dreams of taking his ailing ladyfriend to visit the Mayan ruins. Richard’s co-worker Andrew (Brad William Henke) is a sex-obsessed man being teased by two sexually precocious teenage girls (Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townsend) who are also tormenting Peter, the older son, to a degree. Peter’s unsurpervised computer time inadvertantly leads his younger brother into a prolonged sexually explicit dialog with an unknown adult. Meanwhile, Peter also develops a friendship with a young girl named Sylvie (Carlie Westerman), who has unusually definite ideas about what her married life is going be like. There is also Nancy, the art curator (Tracy Wright) considering Christina’s work, whose sophisticated outer shell ultimately covers perhaps the loneliest person in the whole film.
And all of this plays out in a relatively sparse 91 minutes. The film needed pruning of its bulging cast or more time to fully flesh out its highly quirky characters.
If the subplots make the film sound somewhat lurid, don’t worry. The sexual subplots end comedically and innocently. Andrew only talks the talk of a dirty old man but can’t walk the walk, panicking when the two girls finally get the nerve to ring his doorbell. Robbie’s online flirtation ends with a scene that surprisingly sweet and tender, given what has led up to it.
In the end, writer/director July brings off each individual scene with skill and style, but unfortunately, too much has been jammed into a film that is as crowded and disorganized as my sock drawer.