|Movie poster for Imagine Me & You (2005), directed by Ol Parker|
Note: the following contains links to TVTropes.com (a black hole time suck), spoilers for Imagine Me & You, and spoilers for several other gay-spectrum movies & television, including…. A Single Man, Bend It Like Beckham, But I’m a Cheerleader!, Friends, Kissing Jessica Stein, Lost and Delirious, Notes on a Scandal, Sunshine Cleaning, and Whip It.
|They’re just friends. Very cuddly friends.|
The film realistically introduces the idea that not all women who marry men 1) stay married to them, 2) stay heterosexually identified, and 3) are happy in those marriages. I recently showed the film to a married lesbian couple, one of which had previously been in a relationship with a man. She told me it was refreshing to see that, to see her story reflected on screen. In addition to questioning her sexuality, Rachel also struggles with the expectations of her mother, and then her husband to procreate. Coop brings up the question of whether sex is better after marriage, under the expectation that it continues.
The fact is that real marriage, whether or not one of the parties involved is questioning their sexual orientation, has problems. Through Luce’s profession, we see several people, including Heck, use flowers as a kind of healing balm for the myriad troubles of life. But as Heck discovers, if something actually is wrong, flowers won’t do a damn thing.
Oh, Coop. What a sad figure of arrested development. He’s played for laughs as he continues flirting with a known lesbian who, we know, will never give in to his insisting that he’s great in bed. Perhaps he even grows up a little by the end, realizing that getting involved with married folks isn’t as cut and dry as he hypothesized.
There’s Zoey, too, Luce’s sassy gay friend, there to encourage Luce to get out there and date and to point out the sexual tension between Luce and “Barbie-heterosexual” Rachel. As if we didn’t know already.
8 – Lesbian Panic
Of course, that doesn’t stop the panic by 20th Century Fox, which cites the same-sex romance as “shocking” on the DVD blurb.*
7 – “Older” people have sex and relationships!
6 – Lesbians Are People, Too!
While Imagine Me & You doesn’t do much to challenge the way viewers accept how women look (this, I think, isn’t the story to drive home a point about butch presentation or androgyny), it also avoids coding either female lead as lesbian. When we first meet Luce, she comes across as somewhat non-sexual. Her look is shaggy-casual, but she works as a florist!
The film also comfortably side-steps gender roles with Rachel and Heck. Rachel has a professional writing job. Heck, currently working in finance, longs to be a travel writer. Rachel is the one who cheats. Heck is the one who has an emotional breakdown. (And more about Heck in #4.)
There is absolutely a time and a place for films and media that explore the times when It Doesn’t Get Better; sometimes it’s nice to see a film where coming out isn’t the end of the world. Part of the reason this works in Imagine Me & You is the relationships built between characters. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to use the Bechdel Test when dealing with lesbian movies (hah!) but I think it’s important to point out that there are several scenes between women in the film, not discussing men or the love interest – regardless of gender. The strength of cross-generation connections is one of the highlights of the film, for me. Luce has a wonderful, nuanced, and open relationship with her mother that is a delight to see on screen. This sort of story can offer hope, amusement, escapism and a relatively non-threatening introduction to lesbians for the uninitiated (in fact, I plan on showing the film to my romantic comedy-loving mom).
4 – The Dude Is Not a Douche
While there are times when Heck’s actions and motivations slip dangerously close to that of the Nice Guy(TM), he consistently knows better and when he is behaving like an ass, he takes steps to correct it. After all, Heck is the kind of guy who dances with kids at his wedding, who stands up to his “arse” of a boss, who seems happiest when his wife is taking charge, and who — in a moment I know I connected with — is afraid to ask Rachel if something is wrong because, what if it is?
|The suggestion is there, if you look for it, that the hetero-romantic comedy wedding finale isn’t the happily ever after those films would have you believe.|
3 – The Stars
Taking a moment to be shallow if I may: Imagine Me & You is a really pretty film. The direction is simple, but filled with clear lines and sharp colors. And the stars aren’t bad to look at either. The supporting cast features British staple Celia Imrie (random fact: she played the first female fighter pilot in a Star Wars film!) and familiar face Anthony Head (Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Matthew Goode, who plays Heck, is no stranger to gay film, having played the dead boyfriend in A Single Man, and the not-naked dude in Watchmen (:cough:).
Then there are the leads. Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, Lost and Delirious, Covert Affairs) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Maybe it’s just me, but those acting credits speak for themselves.
So yeah. There’s that.
*I took a quick look at the other films 20th Century Fox imprint Fox Searchlight has to offer and found what might be a coincidence, but also looks a little suspicious. Of the women-centric/lesbian-oriented films under the Fox Searchlight banner, almost all were problematic:
- Sunshine Cleaning‘s lesbian scene fell victim to the cutting-room floor
- Whip It‘s Ari Graynor cited difficulties in getting roller derby’s queer culture on screen
- Notes on a Scandal features a psycho lesbian
- Bend It Like Beckham was originally written as a lesbian romance
- and feelings about Kissing Jessica Stein range from delight to horror
This is hardly definitive research, but it makes me think harder about Imagine Me & You‘s final scenes. The implication is that Coop and Heck both have sexual happy endings (a child, an in-flight romance) while Rachel and Luce don’t even get to finish the movie with a kiss.
The film is also rated R by the MPAA, something I question because two “fucks,” a few “arses,” and zero nudity hardly adds up to something I wouldn’t allow a 17 year old to see. Even with some sexual discussion and two — count ‘em, two — lesbian kisses!