F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 28, 2011)

28 01 2011

It’s forgivable to ask who the $#%@ John Hawkes is upon hearing 2010’s Academy Award nominations.  He’s not an incredibly recognizable name, largely because he’s been a character actor making his way around the indie circuit.  In “Winter’s Bone,” the movie that earned him a nomination, he played a hard-as-nails uncle to Jennifer Lawrence’s Ree with a bit of a soft side.  While I wasn’t entirely sold on the performance, I did see some real talent and acting prowess.

So, after Hawkes earned the nomination (which I should have seen coming given his SAG recognition), I hit Netflix and flipped through his filmography.  He’s been lurking in the shadows for most of his career, but he had a phenomenal leading turn in an incredibly quirky but ultimately winning indie called “Me and You and Everyone We Know.”  The Sundance breakout written and directed by star Miranda July is a strange meditation on connection in the digital age paired with a story of teenage sexual awakening.  Does it sound weird enough yet?

Hawkes plays separated shoe salesman Richard, clumsily trying to be a good father to his children while they are totally absorbed in the world of the computer.  He begins a cordial relationship with the off-kilter modern artist Christine (July), whose works would look strange in the universe of “Napoleon Dynamite.”  Their courtship is unconventional, but it’s charming through and through.

Meanwhile, Richard’s sons, a curious teenager and a naive youngster, do some searching of their own.  Perhaps it’s because they can’t feel connected to their father, or maybe they just need escapism.  But they are only one of the movie’s subplots involving kids and coming-of-age.  There’s also a young neighbor preparing her dowry and two adolescent teenagers trying to front as sexual beings.

These stories are peculiarly juxtaposed, but they hit home with an unexpected resonance.  “Me and You and Everyone We Know” predates the Facebook age, but it’s still a fascinating look at how the digital disconnect affects us in all aspects of our lives.  Our relationships, our feelings, and even art – all of it, irrevocably changed.

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