The Unicorn Scale: Imagine Me and You
Welcome to the Unicorn Scale! I’m SB, your guest host. This week I’m brushing off my Hollywood Video Previously Viewed DVD copy of Imagine Me & You (2005), in which Giles and Jenny Carpenter’s daughter falls for Sarah Conner. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies that encompass cringe-worthy grade A maple syrup level exchanges of sappy dialogue as well as moments that catch you in their current with their deftness and emotional clarity, this is a film for you. Spoilers ahead!
Imagine Me & You opens on our protagonist Rachel’s wedding day. Her certain and staid excitement is palpable from the moment we meet her. Enter Luce, our reluctant, restrained future paramour. And just as Rachel takes her final steps towards Heck, her soon-to-be-spouse, she locks eyes with a departing Luce. It’s this moment that writer/director Ol Parker built the film around, the same moment that is the audience’s first brush with the tangible chemistry between Piper Perabo (Rachel) and Lena Headey (Luce).
We eventually learn that Rachel’s excitement on her wedding day was more about the wedding than the marriage—the well-deserved celebration of a love, but a love that has drifted a bit too far into rote comfort. We see Rachel relearn what she knows about love, that it is not something that grows on you, but something that grows with you, through you, in spite of you. And we follow genuinely, at times surprisingly likable characters struggling with the difference between what they should do and what they will.
What I liked
It’s not often we get to see a bi protagonist in a romantic comedy. Rachel was in love with a man, then fell for a woman. And it was the declaration of this latter love in the midst of an improbable traffic jam that made the whole world believe in Love again (no big deal.)
All the queer women! There’s Rachel, who we get to see experience that moment for the first time, that moment when you’re a queer person talking to someone you fancy and it turns out they’re queer too *butterflies*. Of course we have Luce, who is good with kids, often visits her “not sad, depressed” mother, and sells ridiculously sized bouquets out of her corner shoppe. And Luce’s best friend Edie—handsome, charming, ecstatically gay Edie.
For me, a big part of the appeal of movies like this—the very aspect of the film that Rotten Tomatoes derides—are the time-honored, familiar hills and valleys of the romcom. I watch movies like this because I know what to expect about 90% of the time. And one benefit of that reliability is that unless I saw it in the previews, no one dies in the movie. Why is that important? None of our ladies are struck down by the Bury Your Queers trope, one of the easiest violin strings to pluck. I’m not going to go as far as to say that this film gets points for the simple act of having queer women on screen and allowing them to survive—but let’s be honest, it’s a draw.
Along those same lines—Rach wasn’t gaywashed. There was no “gay now” moment, nothing happened that delegitimized her love for Heck. Rachel and Heck had a (somewhat) passionate love at one time, and it is referenced and yearned for. Rachel fell out of love, and then in love again, and this time it wasn’t with him, it was with her.
Conversations that involved queerness were light hearted, if not at times delightfully awkward “I’m gay.” “Oh! Well done.”
What I didn’t like
The marketing. It’s rarely a good sign when the movie poster plays upon the most-used stock image for bi people—that’s right folks, it’s the sneaky affair partners holding hands unbeknownst to the dedicated, unsuspecting spouse!
The queerness was white and cis and femme (save for the two queer men, almost identical down to their names, who brought levity from their amorous spot behind a tree.)
The term bisexual is never uttered. Luce names her sexuality in conversation with Heck as gay; Edie enthusiastically embraces the label from her shopping cart. Having queer terms used and clarified is excellent, but we are again left as we often are, with “no label” bisexuality.
Imagine Me & You is a fun movie that dances on the edge of pejorative tropes but treats them so kindly it is hard not to be soft and just call them clichés. The main character’s bisexuality is not central to her infidelity. Rachel is just someone who went understandably quite far down a slightly wrong path, stubbornly pushing away that reality until she was jarred awake. Queerness is not depicted as the reason behind a character’s negative traits or positive downfall. Though there are multiple queer characters, they are mostly women, and quite homogeneous. So I’m giving Imagine Me & You:
Here’s to Rachel and Luce. “May they grow old together sharing the same pillow.”