Piper Perabo as Rachel
Lena Headey as Luce
Matthew Goode as Heck
Darren Boyd as Coop
Anthony Head as Ned
Sharon Horgan as Beth
Celia Imrie as Tessa
Sue Johnston as Ella
Rick Warden as Gordon
Directed by Ol Parker
This exploration of first lesbian love is cute and sometimes amusing, but mostly, it’s the type of obvious and predictable British romantic comedy we’ve seen before only with lesbians.
On the day of her wedding, Rachel (Piper Perabo) meets Luce (Lena Heady), the florist who did the flower arrangements, but once they become friends, she starts wondering whether marrying Hector (Matthew Goode) was the right thing to do, especially when she seems to be falling for her new friend.
We can’t blame Richard Curtis for the death of British comedy–after all, he did write the “Blackadder” series–but he certainly did start making it less unique and less funny by writing so many sickeningly sweet romantic comedies. Screenwriter Ol Parker seems to be following in his footsteps with his directorial debut, a movie that uses many of the same elements that Curtis probably should have trademarked by now.
The first of these, of course, is the wedding, and as the nervous Rachel prepares for hers, we meet Luce, a flighty florist who is making her presence known. When they meet in suitably adorable fashion, they immediately hit it off, and become the best of girlfriends, while Rachel’s new husband Hector tries to set Luce up with his womanizing friend Coop. It turns out that Luce actually plays for the other team, and after the two women gets into the type of giggly schoolgirl antics that almost always leads to lesbianism–note the sarcasm–Rachel is suddenly questioning whether Hector is really the right person to spend the rest of her life with. Of course, Rachel’s wacky family all have a say in the matter, while Hector is devastated by the news that his wife may love a woman more than him.
Personally, I have nothing against lesbians or movies about them, and there have been a number of good independent ones like last year’s “Saving Face” and “Kissing Jessica Stein,” but there’s always a delicate balance needed when handling the topic to either keep it realistic and/or sympathetic. Parker fails to do this, as he incorporates the lesbian plot device into the story with no particular tact. When Luce tells the amorous Coop that she likes women, we get the typical shocked expression, before resorting to the homophobia-as-humor response we’ve seen too many times before, because of course, Coop must be man enough to change Luce’s sexual preferences, right? Then there’s the moment where Rachel and Hector first discover Luce’s sexuality by running into her with a girlfriend in the supermarket, which offers suitable embarrassment for all involved.
Real lesbians might not find any believable romance in the movie. Instead, they may find the relationship between the women and how it develops either unbelievable or downright offensive in the way it perpetrates the far too common male fantasy myth of all lesbians being gorgeous supermodel types who are still attractive to men, even though they prefer women.
Although the filmmaking is accomplished enough for a first feature, it just may be too hard for any British filmmaker making a romantic comedy to get out of the shadow of Curtis, obvious from the fact that I spent most of the movie playing “Who would Richard Curtis have cast?” for each of the roles. There were parts that could have been played by Bill Nighy or Emma Thompson and there’s even a brief Rowan Atkinson type cameo. I never quite figured out which of the two lead actresses would have been played by Keira Knightley, since they both seemed to be doing a pretty good impression of her.
Granted, there are a few funny bits, again taken from the Richard Curtis playbook, but the laughs eventually take a backseat to what is supposed to be the romantic element. The problem is that no one ever talks like they do in this movie, sitting at dinner waxing poetic about love at first sight, so the whole thing comes across as fake and contrived. It’s movies like this that make it harder for real people to talk about feelings for each other, since expectations are set too high by the ridiculously romantic moments in these types of movies that never happen in real life.
Fortunately, the movie showcases an outstanding performance by Matthew Goode, who played far too small a role in Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” and he really delivers with the larger role he plays in this story. Possessing as much charm as a young Hugh Grant, he brings true emotion to his role, gaining so much empathy from the audience, that it makes it hard to support the romance between the two women. Hector is such a nice guy that he seems completely undeserving of the way he’s treated by Rachel. There are a few other decent characters, such as Rachel’s father played by Anthony Head, and newcomer Boo Jackson as the precocious kid. If you blink, you may miss Darren Boyd from the British sitcom “Coupling,” which is probably more responsible for the type of tactless humor in this movie than anything ever written by Richard Curtis.
The Bottom Line:
The few good performances and humorous bits are weighed down by an obvious and predictable love story that tries too hard to integrate its unbelievable lesbian romance. And if you can’t guess how the whole thing ends or that the Turtle songs, from which the title was taken, will be played over the end credits, than you clearly haven’t seen enough of these movies and probably deserve to sit through another.
Imagine Me & You opens on Friday in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco with a wider roll-out in February.