Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Imagine Me & You

I think it's important for the public mainstream to see a different side of the homosexual stereotypes that they typically see in the media. Movies like Brokeback Mountain pave the way for Hollywood films that present a gay community capable of genuine love. Of course, these kinds of films are still subject to interpretation and scrutiny by both sides of the fence - those who proclaim that being gay is "not normal" and those who suggest that being gay is simply "not common" but is indeed normal for the "uncommon".

The scrutiny can be brutal. Those uncomfortable with gay themes may complain that a movie is "too gay". Those proud of such themes may complain that a movie is "not gay enough".

I recently watched a special screening copy of a movie called "Imagine Me & You" (which is now out on DVD yesterday, Tuesday June 27th) and my critique of it is that it's "not realistic enough" . . . .

As I watched this film, I kept having the same thought throughout the entire movie: was this movie written by a straight person?

Spoiler warning: Don't continue reading if you intend on watching the film yourself! I'm about to unpack the movie.

In a nutshell, girl marries guy - girl sees other girl during wedding ceremony - girls become friends while guy is clueless - girls realize they're in love - guy finds himself single again.

The movie is about a beautiful woman, Rachel (played by Piper Perabo), who marries her super hottie guy best friend and lover, Heck (played by Matthew Goode - who by the way is absolutely adorable in every scene), and as she is walking down the aisle catches a brief glance at the wedding's florist, Luce (played by Lena Headey), somene she had never known before. At the reception they have one conversation at the punch bowl and from then on they are both drawn to each other. Rachel invites Luce over for dinner with her new husband Heck, along with Heck's best friend and horn-dog hottie Cooper (played by Darren Boyd). In time, Rachel and Luce develop a friendship at the encouragement of Heck. Luce is unapologetic about being a lesbian. Rachel has moments of resistance to the feelings she's noticing towards her new friend. Heck is apparently clueless that Luce could ever steal his new bride away from him. The movie proceeds with banter, romance and bad gay jokes. By the time Rachel embraces her love for Luce, realizing that the first glance the two shared during her wedding ceremony was actually "love-at-first-sight", Heck is heart-broken and the two women live happily ever after.

Almost makes the die-hard romantics sigh and "awww". Almost. This movie was full of scenes that even this hopeless romantic couldn't buy into:

**At the very beginning of the movie, Rachel is seen very excited about the wedding. However, during the ceremony, she is distracted by a moment's glance with a woman she had never even met WHILE she is walking down the aisle to marry her best friend and lover of many years. If she was so excited about this milestone event in her life and in their relationship, wouldn't she be more focussed on the guy at the end of the aisle?

**There is no indication that Rachel is a lesbian or is "in the closet" or is even bisexual. All that we are presented with is that she loves Heck. So is the concept here that a heterosexual woman can easily fall in love with a woman if it happens to be "love at first sight"? Is that how it happens? Even if she was simply curious about being with a woman, why would Rachel be so distracted by Luce considering that Rachel is a newlywed? She literally just got married. Did the "high" of getting married wear off while she was walking down the aisle? Did she not even enter a honeymoon stage? By the way, did they even go on a honeymoon? I didn't see that they did. The scene after the wedding reception is of Rachel going to Luce's flower shop to invite her over to dinner. A woman she had never met before the wedding!

**Maybe this story line would seem a little more realistic if they showed Rachel and Heck having been married for several years and their relationship was on the fritz. That could explain why Rachel would be looking outside the marriage. Maybe it'd seem more realistic if we saw that Rachel questioned her sexuality in the past. That could explain how a "love-at-first-sight" experience with another woman could serve as such a distraction for her.

**Even if we consider the possibility that maybe she didn't realize that she's lesbian or bisexual until that moment (as is the case for some in our community who don't "come out to themselves" until later in life), how can that hijack her feelings towards Heck? Unless she really wasn't in love with him. But that's not what we're led to believe in this movie. She does love him. Oh yeah, and they're still having sex! But at the same time, she's mesmerized by this woman she's only starting to get to know. But it's love at first sight so it's okay, it could happen.

I don't buy it. There's more that I don't get about this movie.

**Before she arrived to the chapel, why was Heck worried that Rachel wouldn't show up to the wedding? Where were his doubts stemming from?

**At the reception, why was the florist mingling with the bride and other guests? And dancing too?

**When Luce came over for dinner with Rachel and Heck, along with Heck's hottie horn-dog best friend Cooper (because Rachel was trying to fix Luce up with Cooper), Luce openly told Heck that she was a lesbian. Later, in the grocery store, they have fun with trying to figure out if Luce had a girlfriend and they discover that she is single. So why would Heck encourage Rachel to develop this friendship with Luce? Why would he ask Luce to escort his wife to a sporting event in his absence? Was he so confident in his relationship with his wife (even though he says later in the movie that he wasn't sure if she'd show up to the wedding) that Luce posed no threat? I notice he didn't have his best friend take her to the game. Horny guy Cooper might steal Rachel away but not lovely lesbian Luce? Heck is absolutely adorable but is he clueless?

**Rachel experiences some confusion about the feelings she's developing towards Luce so she decides to over compensate by bringing Heck into the woods late at night to get frisky - not in the privacy of their own home or in the comfort of their own bed but in the woods. They are interrupted by the sound of two men behind a tree "getting it on". The four introduce each other and they reveal that the two gay men had only met each other that night in contrast to Heck and Rachel who were married - all four in the woods to find a private moment? So the depiction here is that two gay men will have a fling in the dark woods after meeting each other for the first time but two women (a lesbian and a we-don't-know-what) can fall in love after seeing each other for the first time? I know both scenarios happen but what's the message here?

**Heck quits his job and gets drunk. Rachel happens to be nervous at home ready to tell Heck about Luce. So when Heck gets home, obviously drunk, she still uses that opportunity to confess to Heck about something this important - that her affection is divided. Wouldn't it make sense for her to tell him while he's sober? It turns out that he does hear what she's saying but pretends to be asleep. And so later, Heck doesn't realize or suspect that Luce is the one Rachel was confessing about? He really is clueless!

**In fact, Cooper figures out that it was Luce before Heck does. And as much as a horny-dog that Cooper is presented as being, someone who will sleep around uncommitted with anyone and anything unapologetically, he goes to Luce judging her and calling her a slut? What the hell was that all about?

**When all the cards are laid out, everyone knows about everyone, Heck is willing to simply step aside so that Rachel can embrace her "true love". Where's the anger? Where's the fighting for her? Where's the discussion about the fact that they were actually and still married?

I understand that this movie was meant to be a romantic comedy. But it's poorly written, poorly directed and poorly produced. There were parts of the movie where scenes seemed to be missing. There were scenes where actors just didn't seem believable. There wasn't enough character development. There were numerous stupid gay jokes, inferences and stereotypes. It really does seem like a straight person was trying to write a gay love story.

Okay, so I appreciate the attempt at illustrating how a gay romance can occur just like a straight romance can. I believe gay people can genuinely fall in love too. But the thing that this movie lacked was a realistic presentation of the social dynamics involved with a gay theme. The concept of the movie may have worked if the bride fell in love with the best man or even another man. It would fit in a heterosexual context. However, this movie failed to depict the social complexities of being and/or figuring out if one is gay or lesbian and the social consequences we have to live with for choosing this kind of a relationship while severing a heterosexual marriage.

The more troubling thing about this movie to me was that there seemed to be no acknowledgement of the wedding vows that were recently made. I like being able to see a lesbian couple in love but why was it important to illustrate it in the context of breaking up a marriage? Personally, I would have rather seen Rachel call off the wedding and eventually end up with her true love than to see her enter this marriage, commit adultery and leave her husband.

"Imagine Me & You". Sounds romantic.

In a time when people are shouting from the roof tops that gay marriage will threaten the institution of marriage, we don't need a movie that shows that it's okay for a gay or lesbian relationship to break up a marriage commitment simply in the name of "true love". What we need is a movie that shows that it's okay for a gay or lesbian relationship to honor their "true love" for one another by sharing a marriage commitment.

Now that is something to "imagine".


Peterson Toscano said...

Since romantic comedies need to be both romantic and comedic, with cinematic airbrush magic, they smooth away the pain, the confusion, the familys' disgust, and the ugly words.

They leave us with message that if we follow our heart, all will work out. The spouse will generously step aside and all will be forgiven as the credits role to a nice hip hop love jam. If we are lucky, they will even show us silly outtakes.

The reality is that when we follow our heart into a same-gender love affair or the exploration of our own gender or sexual identity, we most often face rejection from the people we consider most dear to us.

But I guess with all the hurt and rejection, we can use a little romantic comedy escapism ever now and then.

JJ said...

I have to admit to a little celebrity crush on Piper Perabo, and therefore to enjoying some of this movie on a superficial level... but I have to agree with you. So many holes!

And why do all the gay movies I see involve infidelity? Why is the main story line almost always about someone leaving their spouse/partner for someone of the same gender?

That's a generalization, of course, I'm sure there are movies that don't conform to this pattern, but I haven't seen them.

That having been said, Piper is a hottie! And she kisses a girl! I liked that part! ;)

Eric said...

Hey Peterson,

yep you're right. We do need a lil escapism and considering it's a romantic comedy, we can excuse some of the bad jokes and fairy tale love-at-first-sight moments. I'm a romantic!

From someone who really likes (excuse the phrase) chick-flick romantic comedies, I hoped for more. My lingering questions throughout the movie got in the way of me enjoying the movie and experiencing that "it-could-happen-to-me" feeling. Instead, i kept thinking, "it doesn't happen like that".


I totally know what you mean. On a superficial level, i was totally enamored by Matthew Goode (Heck). In practically every scene in this movie, he was sooooo adorable. For me, he redeemed watching this movie because he's such eye-candy (for me).

I really was tempted to write this review with a Matthew-Goode-is-so-hot emphasis (even though i did slip those in a couple times) but i resisted the temptation because I really do think the movies we begin to watch in the mainstream ought to portray gay and lesbian relationships in a light OTHER than infidelity.

I challenge Hollywood's writers/directors out there to explore this aspect of life in their craft! If they really want to create something that will stimulate thought and discussion (and even controversy) and something that will make their audience feel something, anything, they need to begin making films where gay and lesbian relationships are a norm and not an aberration. It's a rarely touched frontier and a potential market. And it will change our culture!

Anonymous said...

That is love, I love this movie.

Anonymous said...

The movie was perfect. The point the writer was trying to make is about love at first site.. and the main point is that it doesn't matter if it's a man or a woman.. it's love. She didn't know it was love at first site.. which is why she tried to set her up with cooper.. then she found out she was gay and then her feelings of "knowing her all her life" etc, turned sexual and more defined. The movie was absolutely perfect. Nice twist with Perabo being the aggresive one. I like the fact that the movie doesn't sit there and hang on gay issues. The mother freaked out a little but all in all it was just a story about a woman finding out she is attracted to another woman and there isn't any big issues about it. I thought it was completely realistic as it is a lot like how I ended up with my girlfriend.. i.e I was married etc and so is was my girlfriend.. both of us being clueless. I think the writer of this article might be a little focused on how they think everything should fall into a nice neat gay package and anything that sways from that isn't realistic. I recommend anyone seeing this movie whether you're gay or straight. The humor was right on.

Eric said...

anonymous, thank you for your comment. i'm interested to know more about your experience/story. as a woman, did you really not realize your attraction to women before meeting your girlfriend? i wrote this review limited with my own perspective and experience as a gay man. i'm open to learning more about yours.

Anonymous said...

hello eric,

After reading your blog, I read this passage and just wanted to pass along a message to you. Coming from a christian who herself has to daily put to death same-sex attractions, I wanted you to know that I'll be praying for you. Please don't allow yourself to be deceived-the truth WILL set us free.

John 12:
44 Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."