Ol Parker’s ‘Imagine Me & You’ (2005)

29Apr09

Imagine Me & You is not a remarkable film. Though well-developed, the characters aren’t particularly original, and the story follows the comfortable romantic comedy formula. The lesbian twist on the romantic triangle is really the only aspect that differentiates it from dozens of other romcoms.'Imagine Me & You' poster However, the fact that Imagine Me & You is so commonplace makes it significant — it portrays a queer relationship with little distinction from a straight one.

Ol Parker’s directorial debut is part of a burgeoning new generation of queer cinema that features LGBT characters in stories that are not LGBT-specific. Most films made for the general viewing public with queer characters at their center have addressed coming out, AIDS, or homophobia, issues specifically associated with the queer community. While those stories were and continue to be important to tell, they offer a very limited glimpse into the lives of LGBT individuals, and they focus on how their lives differ from rather than resemble most people’s. Queer audiences and probably a good portion of straight audiences are ready to see films with LGBT characters that do not involve alienation from family members or death, whether by illness or violence. While films that meet those criteria have been made, they have been resigned to very limited releases and more often LGBT film festivals. Even though a couple aspects of the film feel “not Hollywood,” Imagine Me & You is definitely intended for a wide, mainstream audience, making its nonchalant approach to this (pink) love triangle rather notable.

While there’s a little coming out in Imagine Me & You, the heart of the story asks whether love can happen in an instant or if it develops slowly over time. For Rachel, that moment of instant attraction happens as she walks down the aisle to marry her longtime boyfriend Heck and sees Luce amongst the crowd of wedding-goers. While Rachel shares an affectionate, comfortable relationship with Heck, she cannot seem to shake the connection and attraction she feels toward Luce. Though Rachel does some questioning appropriate for someone who has never before been attracted to a person of the same sex, Luce being a woman matters little in regards to Rachel’s main quandary of whether she can leave a man whom she cares for very much and does love, though probably more as a friend. Rachel never seems conflicted about possibly being gay or concerned whether friends and family would still accept her if she were. Rachel’s mother reacts hesitantly to her daughter’s attraction to another woman, but both Rachel’s parents and Luce’s mother come along for the ride during the requisite chase scene that concludes the film, implying their approval of Rachel and Luce’s relationship. The gay characters remain pleasantly devoid of the usual stereotypes, and no one treats them as if they were unicorns or lepers — people seem aware of and, for the most part, quite accepting of gay and lesbian relationships. But Parker does include small, appropriate reminders that queer relationships still exist on the fringe of society to some extent.

Despite its formulaic plot, Imagine Me & You is far less saccharine and superficial than most Hollywood romantic comedies. While Luce and Rachel’s romance is undeniably sweet, it’s not cloyingly so. The humor, which comes mostly from Heck’s biting one-liners, is low-key and clever with nary a wacky misunderstanding in sight. Relationships are treated with maturity and intelligence, and all of the characters feel fully realized and three-dimensional. Though receiving less than favorable reviews from most critics, the film has been embraced by queer audiences for its positive portrayal of a lesbian relationship and the delightful performances of Lena Headey and Piper Perabo.

Piper Perabo & Lena Headey in 'Imagine Me & You'
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