Directed by Ol Parker
I have conflicted feelings about Imagine Me and You. On one level, I quite enjoyed watching it but, at the same time, this is the kind of lesbian film that fills my heart with dread.
It’s a romantic comedy and I’m not overly keen on the genre as a whole. Worse, it’s heavily influenced by Richard Curtis and I don’t like his films. Plus, it’s about self-centred, rich, white, English people. This is all irksome, but I think it strikes me with fear because it’s the kind of lesbian film that makes a certain kind of lesbian say things like, “That’s how it should be!” and “Thank God there were no stereotypes!” and “It’s so nice to see lesbians represented as normal women!”, as if the representation of lesbians as conventionally attractive feminine women who don’t challenge the status quo isn’t politically loaded, when of course it is, and massively so. Imagine Me and You may be a lesbian film, but it is not by any stretch of the imagination, a queer film.
At the beginning of the film a bland yuppie called Rachel (Piper Perabo) is about to marry another bland yuppie called Heck (Matthew Goode) in a big bland yuppie wedding. As she walks up the aisle, she suddenly sets her eyes on her florist, Luce (Lena Headey), and falls in love with her at first sight. Now Rachel has a big problem, being newly married at the same moment as she realises that she’s a lesbian. The rest of the film is basically them sorting it out and Rachel deciding whether to stick with Heck for loyalty’s sake, or to follow her heart and take the consequences. Since this is a romantic comedy, you can probably guess which way she goes.
Imagine Me and You is an uneven piece of filmmaking. Some scenes feel natural and work well, while others are so stilted and flat that you can almost hear the director shouting “action” and “cut”. The scene in which Heck and Rachel try and spice up their marriage by having sex on Clapham Common and run into two gay men trying to do the same thing is genuinely funny, but the scene in which Rachel storms into Luce’s shop to confront her just feels contrived. Some of the dialogue is witty, but some of it is incredibly clichéd. The character of Cooper brings a crude, misogynistic humour to the film which doesn’t sit well with the light fluffiness that characterizes the rest of it and prevents it from serving a useful purpose as the lesbian film you can watch with your family (because in all other respects the relationship between Rachel and Luce is extremely, even annoyingly, chaste).
The plot is hardly original. Once again, it’s based on the fantasy of turning the straight woman which I’ve mentioned in relation to Claire of the Moon and When Night is Falling. In fact, the plot is lifted pretty much wholesale from When Night is Falling, and while it works fine there as a drama, it creates a problem as a comedy because the basic story just isn’t funny. Heck is played as such an innocent, nice guy that it’s impossible to be amused by Rachel brutally dumping him for someone else a few weeks after their wedding. To deal with this problem, the film turns him into a saintly figure who voluntarily releases Rachel to her true love, when let’s face it, at the very least the locks would have been changed and her stuff would have been thrown into the street.
So, what’s to enjoy? I’ve decided that Imagine Me and You is pulled through in the end by some strong performances, without which it would definitely fall into the category of atrocious lesbian films. On paper Rachel and Heck are utterly boring, but Piper Pirabo and Matthew Goode somehow manage to make them rather likeable. Lena Headey also puts in a good performance as Luce and is, let’s be honest, hot. Celia Imrie and Anthony Head are amusing as Rachel’s parents, even though the characters they’re playing are little more than British stereotypes. Sheila Johnson also shines in a few scenes as Luce’s mother.
Overall, it should be worse than it is, but manages to provide a decent first date movie, or Saturday night with a bottle of wine movie for when you really don’t want to watch anything challenging.