Saturday, April 23, 2011

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Netflix keeps suggesting really quirky, insightful films that I end up appreciating.

The Opposite of Sex is narrated by a sarcastic, manipulative, 16-year-old pregnant runaway who seduces and then absconds with her half-brother's bisexual boyfriend. Throw in the thousands of dollars she also takes off with, a false molestation charge against the brother (who is a teacher), and the neurotic and meddling sister of the brother's former lover, and it's a head-swirling recipe for an edgy and enjoyable comedy.

It did get to be a little tiresome, though, the way the whole entourage of characters kept trotting across the country and over the northern border - Indiana to LA to Canada. That may have been symbolic, however; though the traipsing about North America wasn't very realistic, what was real was the range of characters' reactions to and relationships with "traditional" setups involving sex and love, and the defenses they put up to cope with both. From the media and political frenzy over a gay teacher to ignorant comments about "deserving" AIDS to judge-y comments left and right that are turned upside down, the snapshots are all definitely art parodying life. Even the narrator toys with the audience, telling them what they're probably expecting in the plot twists, what they should be foreshadowing, etc. It's a clever and tactical mirror for the social scenarios playing out in the storyline.

Based on the Netflix description, I expected to somewhat dislike the film, but I actually ended up liking it. And apparently I didn't learn my lesson about not judging a film by its Netflix description, because I expected to be somewhat bored with Me and You and Everyone We Know, but ended up really liking it too.

The focus of Me and You and Everyone We Know are the little eccentricities everybody has that make up their identities. So the whole film is basically about finding beauty in everybody's weirdnesses. Which is kind of appealing, given that the uber-OCD freak in me has been coming out a lot lately due to stress and anxiety.

There were also the themes of not taking anyone at face value, about technology both giving people the courage to be themselves and giving them the anonymity to pose as anything they want, about innocence and cynicism in navigating social facades, and lastly (but crucially) about misinterpretations. Naturally, I appreciated the "new" communications (chat rooms, video messages) both complementing and working at odds with "old" communications (phones, notes left in a window). Then there were the images of self-presentation - the shoes people wear, the makeup they put on, the large magnets that change a motor vehicle from a car to a cab.

I really liked how all the fragments and idiosyncrasies made a believable patchwork of a neighborhood and people's lives - and how the film ended with a generational torch-passing of sorts.

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