Witer/ director Miranda July, a performance artist, has crafted such a quirky, delightful little first film, you can't help but admire it.
Christine (July) is a performance artist struggling to get her work shown. In order to make ends meet, she works as a driver for the elderly. Taking her favorite client to the mall one day, she meets Richard (John Hawkes, HBO's "Deadwood"), a shoe salesman at a department store. As each struggles with the various people in their lives, they circle each other, attempting to connect and have a relationship.
This is easily one of the quirkiest films I have ever seen. I almost feel like the dictionary will soon list this film as one of the definitions of the word. But this doesn't detract from this geml.
The beauty of the film is that despite the fact that everyone is `quirky', the quirks add to their characters and also to the story. As we meet Christine, we realize that she is a bit eccentric, but there is also something working below the surface. Why is she so eccentric? Then, as she picks up her elderly client, we learn a little about him. His girlfriend soon enters the picture and we get a glimpse of their relationship. Richard, recently separated from his wife, deals with the new living arrangements. He rents a one bedroom apartment and let's his kids have the bedroom. His two sons, spend a lot of time together. The older son converses with a person about sex in a chatroom. The younger son watches and soon takes over the conversation. A local neighbor's daughter goes to the same school and they talk a bit. We learn a little about her. The story continues to introduce new characters and show us how they interact. Richard's co-worker meets two young girls in the neighborhood who become intrigued by the older man.
As the film progresses and we continue to meet and explore the lives of all of the characters, the quirkiness of each becomes more real, and more believable, creating a portrait of their lives. The film deftly weaves back and forth between the various characters, allowing us to get to know a little more about them.
It is particularly refreshing to watch the relationship between Christine and Richard. They meet and regard each other tentatively, at first, and as she pursues the relationship, he becomes put off. It is almost like they are playing a game of relationship tag. Each has to respond to the other's advance and then they continue to the next round. Part of this is because they are each very busy in their lives, Richard, in particular, because he has to work on the relationship with his kids, his soon-to-be ex, his co-worker, and more. These two seem like they were created from a real life relationship July may have had. I get the feeling that if I happened to stumble across the film crew shooting in the department store, and didn't realize they were shooting a film, I might actually ask Richard to help me find some shoes.
It is also interesting to watch how the characters interact and reveal their little quirks to one another. This aspect of the film makes most of the characters seem endearing, interesting and real.
The dialogue is also very good. At one point, Richard asks his kids for their opinion on something. The older son responds "Are you mad at us?"
Miranda July has created a remarkably accomplished first film.