Like a cliche that has a soundly factual basis, "Me Myself I" is an exceedingly broad and obvious situation comedy that is nonetheless rooted in a great deal of recognizable truth. If Sony Classics gives it a good push, this bright, ultra-mainstream pic should have a healthy commercial future for an import, with female viewers leading the way.

Like a cliche that has a soundly factual basis, “Me Myself I” is an exceedingly broad and obvious situation comedy that is nonetheless rooted in a great deal of recognizable truth. This French-financed dramatic comedy focuses on a thirtyish single woman who, feeling that she has missed out by not marrying and having a family, has a unique opportunity to experience firsthand what her alternative life might have been like. If this were a Hollywood picture starring Julia Roberts, it would easily cross the $ 100 million threshold, but if Sony Classics gives it a good push, this bright, ultra-mainstream pic should have a healthy commercial future for an import, with female viewers leading the way.

Like most commercially intended Aussie features in the touching-comedic vein, this one makes its points in ways that even the deaf, dumb and blind couldn’t miss, but the humorous and accurate touch it applies to the much-pondered career/family conundrum makes it an enormous audience pleaser, one helped considerably by the winning central performance of Rachel Griffiths.

As written and directed by first-timer Pip Karmel, who directed docus and shorts prior to winning kudos for editing “Shine,” this study of a life crisis is set up by expository obviousness that doesn’t bode well: Attractive and successful Sydney journo Pamela Drury (Griffiths) has self-help stickers posted all over her bathroom, resents her married best friend for being “disgustingly happy,” has a nagging mother and, depressed on her birthday, bemoans not having married her dream man 13 years earlier, lamenting that “I’ve missed the boat.” If this weren’t enough underlining, she half-heartedly attempts suicide by electrocution in a bathtub in a sequence that Karmel, with her editing expertise , turns into an episode of explosive hilarity.

Twenty minutes in, shades of “The Twilight Zone” and “Freaky Friday” are summoned up as Pamela confronts her double and sees herself as the woman she might have become had she married her beloved Robert Dickson (David Roberts) lo those many years ago. She is then abandoned by her counterpart and stuck in suburbia to assume the role of wife of a middle-class real estate agent and mother to three kids. At first, she is lost and bewildered, and considerable comic mileage is made out of Pamela’s cluelessness as to basic facts of life at the household; natch, family members consider her blank looks and hesitant behavior rather odd, but have no reason to suspect that they are now living with an essentially different person.

Even more mileage is made out of the slow-burning buildup to the “new” Pamela’s first sexual encounter with Robert. It’s clear that this is a marriage from which the passion has disappeared long ago, but Pamela, who has been hungry for some action from the beginning of the picture, is determined to change things, and the way she does it reps another comic high point.

Pamela’s life history isn’t the only thing that’s different in this alternate world. This time around, the disgustingly happy friend hasn’t married at all, and a man in whom Pamela had taken an interest in her single life, Ben (Sandy Winton), now reps the possibility of adultery, rather than a fling.

At first, family life — for Pamela as well as the audience — is seen as a vision of a level of hell, with endless routines and demands consigning parents to a drone-like existence. Little by little, however, a certain balance is achieved, so that the good and bad of both single and family life are given their proper due. After a certain time, the main thing Pamela can’t abide about taking care of children is wiping their arses, and she eventually solves that one with Mary Poppins-like firmness.

Despite the bright colors and broad strokes with which Karmel paints the predicament, the film’s emotional observations are very much on the money, so that even if one resists, to a greater or lesser extent, the way things are handled, there is no denying the relevance of the points pic is making. The film’s accessibility rests on the universality of re-examining one’s big what-ifs, something almost everyone does at times, and the comic spin Karmel puts on the neatly structured story makes it go down easily.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that she has Griffiths playing the lead. Heretofore better known for her attention-getting supporting roles in the likes of “Muriel’s Wedding,” “Jude” and “Hilary and Jackie,” she winningly carries this one, in which she appears in nearly every scene. Terrifically appealing in a real rather than movie-star-glamorous way, she successfully pulls off the comedy while easily convincing on the fundamental emotional level. Pic should decisively put her into the leading lady category.

Supporting perfs are sprightly, and tone is adroitly reinforced by a spiffy soundtrack that includes some well-chosen pop tunes.

Me Myself I

Australian-French

Production

A Sony Pictures Classics release (in U.S.) of a Gaumont production co-produced by Les Films du Loup/Sedell. Produced by Fabien Liron. Co-producer, Andrena Finlay. Directed, written by Pip Karmel.

Crew

Camera (Atlab color), Graeme Lind; editor, Denise Haratzis; music, Charlie Chan; production designer, Murray Picknett; sound (Dolby digital), Guntis Sics; costume designers, Paul Warren, Ariane Weiss; assistant director, Vicki Sugars; casting, Shana Wolfson. Reviewed at Telluride Film Festival, Sept. 6, 1999. (Also in Boston Film Festival; Toronto Film Festival --- Gala.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Pamela Drury - Rachel Griffiths
Robert Dickson - David Roberts
Ben - Sandy Winton
Stacey - Yael Stone
Douglas - Shaun Loseby
Rupert - Trent Sullivan

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