Quirkiness plays on the idea that individuality is what ultimately defines us, and that this individuality must be an observable fact, for without outside recognition this individuality is insubstantial, or meaningless. The phrase “you are special” now indicates that this is only true if you are able to convince or communicate your uniqueness to the outside observer. My argument for making this non-to-radical claim is founded on today’s complex hierarchy of trendy interests. The wannabe hipster has genres and sub-genres of socially acceptable interests and styles to pick and choose from, allowing the individual to possess his desired public title without true self-reflection. Now, after long and arduous hours of discovering myself, I have found that a plain black long-sleeve shirt with a small rip in the side from Goodwill most accurately conveys the “inner me.” Unfortunately I live in Portland, where my lack of plaid and suggestive old-timey novelty pins indicates a severe lack of identity.
Miranda July, the director of today’s film Me and You and Everyone We Know, is also a Portland local, her films shining examples of the pros and cons of quirky movies. (Netflix has a whole genre dedicated to “quirky movies,” therefore that terminology is valid 🙂 With surprising directorial skill, Miranda extends her many characters’ quirks into the realm of the bizarre, defining them by their idiosyncrasies. Yes, they all long for love and intimacy, yet scenes with the potential for some real drama are substituted with pretty, oh-that’s-clever sequences, aimed at making the complicated relationships of the characters more palatable or poetic. I think a bit of “quirk” can be beneficial in some ways to certain films, adding a heightened reality to the narrative, and opening up experimental methods of telling a story. But too often it is used aggressively, overloading our whimsical side with The Smiths, thought balloons, talking animals, tendencies for petty harmless crime, prolonged childhoods, and vintage pinup girl outfits. Ease of consumption is overvalued, leaving authenticity by the wayside. I think finally this comes down to a matter of taste. Sometimes people are in the mood for some light entertainment, and Garden State offers just that. I personally have an aversion to most things quirky, with a few exceptions scattered about.
I haven’t given a synopsis the film, and that is because there are too many separate storylines all interweaving to summarize properly. One storyline which did stand out to me was John Hawkes’, due mostly to his acting ability. In the opening scene, while packing up his house with his two kids, he suddenly becomes anxious and psychotic, and running outside to the front lawn he douses his hand in lighter fluid and ignites it in front of his children. As he attempts to extinguish it in slow motion, the title of the film appears, making for one of the better sequences in the film. John Hawkes seems to have an affinity for playing disturbed individuals, with his recent performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene showcasing the physicality of his acting style. A while back I caught Miranda July’s 2nd film The Future, which suffered in exactly the same way Me and You and Everyone We Know does, although it did feature some unique and at times captivating yet isolated sequences. Miranda is a talented filmmaker, and certainly knows her audience. As far a quirky movies go, this film succeeds rather impressively, and is certain to please some of you. (C+)
PS: But for those who reject all that is quirky, check out Take this Waltz or Ghost World, both fantastic movies which offer a darker side to its characters’ nonconformity.