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[whitespace] The Path Not Taken: Rachel Griffiths gets to see what would have happened if she had married David Roberts in 'Me Myself I.'

Second Chance

In 'Me Myself I,' a woman discovers her alternative life didn't run true

By Richard von Busack

THE ADVERTISEMENT for the Australian movie Me Myself I sports a blurb by Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum describing the comedy as "a slick lifestyle fantasy." Perhaps the publicity people are unfamiliar with criticese, since the idea of slickness implies artificiality and untruthfulness. At first, I thought the publicists were insane to use that blurb, but after I saw Me Myself I, I thought it was Schwarzbaum who'd taken leave of her senses. This film wells over with charm and wit.

True, the first 15 minutes offer a real lesson in perseverance. The opening sequences show us Pamela (Rachel Griffiths), a Sydney magazine editor who has just hit 35--and hates it. She celebrates her birthday by going on a terrible date, drinking vodka out of a bottle and contemplating suicide. At first, Pamela is a darker, antipodal version of Cathy in the daily newspaper's funny pages, and it also seems that the film's narcissistic, feminist-lite title is going to be a prophecy of doom. Suddenly, though, the story takes a welcome dive into the fantastic. When the distracted Pamela walks into traffic and is clobbered by a car, the collision apparently knocks her through the interdimensional barrier, and she encounters her other self: the woman she would have been if she'd married her first true love (Robert Dickson) and had three children.

The two Pamelas promptly switch places, and in her new life, our heroine deals with the harsh realities of three kids. Stacy (Yael Stone) has a whiny streak; Douglas (Shaun Loseby), her middle child, is a stinky little bully who looks like a 5-year-old version of Oliver Reed; her youngest isn't old enough to wipe his own bottom yet, and he mutely demands that the task be done for him, as if he were the Last Emperor. Even so, the new mother has established a balance with her kids, just as her husband arrives home. Her initial delight at having her old high school lover back fades when she learns how un-zipless very married sex can be, performing a terrific slapstick ballet with an unfamiliar diaphragm. The passionless marriage has deeper troubles, too--troubles summed up by the Alexandre Dumas proverb "The bonds of matrimony are so heavy that it takes two to bear them, sometimes three." In this case, four.

Director Pip Karmel has a crisp hand with comedy. Griffiths is as good in a comic role as she's been in the imported dramas we've seen her in. Her pointed face and lean figure conjure up happy memories of the great screwball comediennes. Best of all, her Pamela's no ditz. Young Yael Stone gives the daughter-character depth; the girl becomes vulnerable as well as precocious. Me Myself I also stresses the difference between types of journalism. The single Pamela is working on a feature about the hopes of high school girls, capped with a visit to a self-defense class. The very married Pamela is freelancing for a glossy woman's mag on the topic "How to Keep the Passion Alive After Marriage." In the rattiness and disorder of Pamela's family, Karmel has found a barbed answer to the slick lifestyle fantasies presented as family life in the movies. The film doesn't propose that a woman should have it all--as long as she can have enough to keep her sane.

Me Myself I (Unrated; 104 min.), directed and written by Pip Karmel, photographed by Graeme Lind and starring Rachel Griffiths, David Roberts and Yael Stone, opens Thursday in Palo Alto at the Aquarius and in San Jose at Camera 3.

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From the April 13-19, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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