Unusual little indie film, penned, starred and directed by Miranda July. Female filmmakers are rare, so it's a treat to see a movie made from a different stuff. July plays Christine Jesperson, a taxi driver for the elderly, who makes art movies in her bedroom by voicing over imaginary romantic conversations while filming a still photograph and making sound effects with her TV static. (I wonder if the movie grew out of this, if these home movie experiments were its starting point.) She falls for Richard (John Hawkes), a shoe salesman who has just separated from his wife and burnt his hand with parafin (as you do) in an attempt to save his life. He has two sons, Peter and Robby (Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff), who stay with him half the time, drawing pictures on their computer made out of letters and punctuation marks, and talking dirty over instant messaging. Two teenage girls flirt with Richard's colleague from the department store, hoping to lose their virginity. They practise their oral skills on Peter, the elder of the two brothers (about 15) to see who's better. Robby, the younger brother, of elementary school age, has a weird idea when talking online: "You poop into my butt hole and I poop into your butt hole...back and forth...forever," and illustrates it thus:
which really appears to turn on their interlocuteur, who suggests a meeting at a local park bench. Meanwhile, Christine also attempts to exhibit her films at the local Center for Contemporary Art, whose curators marvel at a hamburger wrapper in the middle of the floor of a new installation because it looks so "real" (it is real, left there by the artist/workman).
There is a magical long tracking shot in which Christine and Richard walk a block together towards their parked cars, pretending that the block represents the life of their relationship. Part of the walk is in awkward silence, the actors somehow conveying in their looks away, tender smiles and blank turns of the head the full range of emotions experienced in a long-term relationship.
July pushes her characters towards danger and debauchery, but her treatment is so innocent and harmless. People are weird and do weird things; but they don't always hurt each other. There is still sweetness in this world. The humour is light and frequent; the characters, without exception, are likeable; the story wafts about suburbia like a dandelion seed in a warm late summer breeze.
Nugget: a bit like an American Mike Leigh film. The best way to sum it up? "Nice."