Sunday, April 26, 2009

Storywh0re from the vault--Imagine Me and You (2005)

Three things that may break your brain...depending on where you first encountered the actors in question.

  1. Giles of BtVS fame, attempting to fast-dance.

  2. Sarah Connor with a British accent.

  3. Adrian Veidt with short, dark hair.

All of this is found in Imagine Me and You. In this 2005 romantic comedy, Piper Perabo plays Rachel, a young woman who's future and sexuality are called into question. Walking down the aisle on her wedding day, she experiences love at first sight with another woman...Luce, the wedding florist, played by Lena Headey. They hit it off at the reception, and from there, things unfold surprisingly predictably.

I wish I could get more on board with this movie, I really do. I support gay marriage in real life, and better LGBT characters and story lines in popular culture. This film, however, falls back on several existing tropes about homosexuality, and uses more traditional rom-com tropes in ways that failed to win my sympathy.

First of all,
Imagine me and You arguably illustrates how Hollywood is more comfortable depicting lesbians (especially if they're both beautiful) than it is gay men. In fairness, Rachel and her husband do run into two men dallying in the woods at one point...but the men have apparently just met, and this taps into another negative stereotype. On the whole, it is hard to imagine the same movie being made with the husband in Rachel's situation.

Next, there is the issue of infidelity. The romantic comedy battlefield is littered with broken engagements, but in this case, the heroine and her Baxter are already married. Rachel and Luce stop short of the sack while Rachel's still married, because that would become something that the audience couldn't condone Maybe I'm just not enough of a romantic, but it seems unwise to throw away a brand new marriage for a brand new romance, regardless of gender. It would be different if Rachel suddenly realized she had no attraction to men...but that would be an issue even without a third party, and doesn't seem to be the case.

In other words, just because it's a same-sex relationship doesn't mean it's better, in this case. It seems like Rachel could end up alone altogether if things don't work out with Luce. Not only might this movie not have been made with two men, but I doubt it would have been made with a marriage breaking up so that another heterosexual couple could form.

Part of the problem, for me at least, is the Baxter.
Watchmen's Matthew Goode plays Rachel's husband Hector, who has ended up with the unfortunate nickname of Heck. Unlike so many Baxters before him, he isn't inattentive, abusive or irresponsible. We see him trying hard to make their marriage work. Heck isn't even particularly boring. His worst sin is a reluctance to get naked in the woods at night...and even then, it's implied that he and Rachel have had sex outdoors before.

In the end, I realized that Heck is the hero of the movie for me. He finds himself in the untenable position of being an obstacle to the happiness for someone he loves, and Goode makes that realization agonizing to watch. In that position, Heck does the right thing, without resentment and with as much grace as he can manage. Then he goes on to follow his dream.

I really don't mean to discourage anyone from watching Imagine Me and You. Even I have to concede that it must end as it does. The heart must be followed, crises of identity must be addressed...and it is, after all, a rom-com. It also treats its Baxter and secondary characters with a lot more respect than usual for the genre. There are no villians, and everyone gets a happy ending.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While you know I love this movie, you make such good points, especially regarding the portrayal of gay men.
I agree that people would not have been nearly as behind this movie were Luce and Rachel replaced by Lucas and Rodney. Further, did there really need to be the example of the "promiscuous gay man" stereotype?
Further, you get a big "hell yeah" for calling out that Lena Headey and Piper Perabo are conventionally attractive women, who, by the way, are both straight in real life. Maybe it can be tolerated better if people think the two leads are just "playing" at it?
For all this, though-ya gotta admit that at least it wasn't trite. The dilemma of Rachel choosing between a good man and a new relationship felt earned. Further, it didn't resort to lesbianism for show, which is so, so easy to do...