Movie Review: Imagine Me & You (2005)
by Brittany B. | 12/4/2019
Imagine You and Me, directed by Oliver Parker (director of Now Is Good and Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, and screenplay writer for both The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) is one of my absolute favorite movies. This movie came out just around the time that I began my own coming out process in high school. Re-watching it as an adult, I am happy to find that I still love it and its wholesome story and motley cast of characters:
Rachel, a blushing bride whose perfect nuptials take a surprising turn at the altar. An innocent glance between Rachel and an unexpected wedding guest is all it takes to spark a love-at-first-sight romance with a surprising twist — the object of Rachel’s affection is a smart and sensuous…woman! Their shocking romance causes quite a stir amongst Rachel’s family and friends as she is forced to choose between her husband and the girl of her dreams. Say “I do” to the wonderfully witty film that Cosmopolitan calls “a refreshing romantic comedy!” (Rated R)
Despite having some problematic phrasing, like most movies of its time, the movie holds up rather well in the almost 15 years since it was released. The story is a quaint love tale about two unsuspecting women who were not prepared for their feelings for one another. It is also a fun take on the narrative trope of meeting someone at a wedding because Rachel (played by Piper Perabo) and Luce (played by Lena Headey) meet at Rachel’s wedding, their eyes literally connecting for the first time as she’s walking down the aisle to marry Heck (aka, Hector).
The film is wonderfully cast and unapologetically British. Perabo, who is the only non-British actor in the movie, and Headey have fabulous chemistry on screen and make the viewer believe in the “love at first sight” angle of the story. In fact, the entire cast perfoms brilliantly in this film, even Boo Jackson, who plays the young “H” (aka, Henrietta), who is Rachel’s grade school younger sister performs remarkably well for a child actor! Every single character brings something to the story, even the side characters that are Rachel’s bridesmaids and co-workers. Often times in romantic comedies, side characters are there without purpose, but every character in this movie was needed for the plot to succeed. Even H’s incessant need to ask silly questions creates a through-line in the film that ultimately allows the love story between Rachel and Luce to come to its romantic conclusion.
The writing of each character also led to the success of the actors who played them. Specifically, Heck. He is an innocent bystander in the story as he is caught between an unstoppable attraction between his wife and friend. He is genuinely a good human, and I found myself feeling extremely sympathetic towards him, as what he goes through is pretty heartbreaking. When he realizes that Rachel is in love with Luce, he is angry, sure, as anyone has the right to be in similar circumstances, but he doesn’t shame her. He doesn’t yell or accuse her of infidelity. He is upset because the love of his life loves another, but all he wants is for her to be happy. The way that his character is written and the performance by Matthew Goode made him a genuinely sympathetic character people from all sorts of relationships and orientations can relate to because his heartache isn’t that Rachel is into a woman, but rather she loves someone else and he can’t make her happy. He tries to be the bigger person and simply step aside instead of trying to hold onto her or force her to work their marriage out. It’s a heartbreaking realization, but it is handled very eloquently, even allowing Heck to cry and be comforted for his heartache.
The only character that I dislike in this movie is Cooper (played by Darren Boyd). I didn’t like him when I watched it as a teenager, and I still don’t like him when I re-watch this movie as an adult. Cooper (aka, Coop) is a man who is unapologetic in how much he sleeps around, brags about his sexual conquests, and he fancies Luce straight away. Luce is straightforward and tells him that she’s a lesbian. Instead of leaving her alone, he sees her sexual orientation as nothing more than a minor inconvenience and a challenge to overcome. He tries to get her to sleep with him several times throughout the film. You see glimmers of him being a good friend, but their conversations almost always loop back to him trying to get her to sleep with him. The movie tries to pass off Coop’s antics as cute and tolerable, when in fact, they’re harmful and incredibly chauvinistic, especially when contrasted against the other men in the movie. He is especially intolerable when he confronts Luce about things between her and Rachel. Coop confronts her for getting involved with someone married. But the thing is, he’s done the exact same thing and actively brags about it – more than that, he actively pursued others and says that the boyfriend or the husband is the woman’s problem to deal with, not his. And there’s a distinct difference in what he does compared to what happened between Rachel and Luce; Luce tried to distance herself from Rachel, and Rachel was the one who initiated things while Luce simply didn’t stop it from happening as it occurred. I understand that the moment is needed for the tension and conflict of the story to really work, but it coming from Coop, who is characterized the way he is, is beyond hypocritical.
The only other criticism that I have for the film is that the pacing leaves a little to be desired. The chemistry that Perabo and Headey have on-screen carries the film, but the writing and editing in no way addresses how long it has taken for these women to fall in love with each other. The story would feel drastically different if the audience knew if the events took place over a week, a few weeks, or several months. Hector makes comments about “things in the bedroom” being lackluster but gives no indication of how long it’s been. Knowing the time frame of the story would help put into perspective the feelings surrounding everyone’s attractions or help understand how Rachel has tried and tried to get Luce out of her head but hasn’t been able to. It reads differently if it’s been a week versus a few months.
This next segment is not a statement on the movie, but more the US film industry and its rating system:
The R rating of Imagine Me and You makes ZERO sense. There are allusions to sex, but there are no sex scenes, no naked bodies what-so-ever, no violence, and the only iterations of “fuck” are back to back when Rachel’s mother has a verbal outburst at the climactic point towards the end of the film. The kissing scenes between Luce and Rachel are tame. No clothing comes off. If it weren’t for the swearing, I’d say the movie is pretty much PG, but because of the swearing, sure, PG-13. Whatever. But R?! That makes no sense at all. US rating standards say that for a PG-13 rating, there can only be one iteration of the word “fuck” in the film, which I think is utter hogwash. This delightful romantic “comedy” should not hold the same rating as Brokeback Mountain (a queer film that contain sex scenes and violence) or Saw II (a horror film); the only thing these films really have in common are that they were all released in 2005. D.E.B.S, which The Queerblr reviewed back in August of 2018, was also released in the US in 2005 and had a very tastefully done sex scene, some mild, poorly choreographed violence, quite a bit of problematic phrasing, and was only rated PG-13. But of all four mentioned movies, Imagine You and Me is by far the most tame.
Rating, pacing, and Coop aside, Imagine Me and You is a fantastic film that always reminds me of snuggling with warm blankets and tea on a crisp fall day. It’s relatable and heartwarming. The writing, characters, and acting are better than most queer media I’ve watched, and the movie makes you feel all the feels for everyone (except Coop). This film will forever be one of my all time favorite wlw movies, even if it isn’t perfect.
4 out of 5 Rainbows
Recommended Viewer: Anyone who believes in the idea of love at first sight, this film is for you! Or anyone looking for a cute romantic movie and who is okay some outdated phrasing and can put up with an incredibly misogynistic character.