“This is Los Angeles. The line between dreams and reality is thinner here.”
This is a line that Brendan (Luke Bracey) tells to his best friend, Cory (Dustin Milligan) after picking him up from the airport. It’s played like a sly joke, but it actually is a reflection on the craziness that ensues fairly quickly after the plot is set in motion. Before that happens, we meet Brendan, an actor working on a very popular cop drama, who finds himself at a personal crisis when he outs himself as gay (to the surprise of no one), but is forced by the suits to keep it on the down low. He calls in Cory for “emotional support,” but Cory becomes less and less of a helper when he ends up sleeping with Gabbi (Emily Meade), a lesbian who just recently suffered through a bad break up with her insane ex, Heather (Angela Sarafyan).
This is the directorial debut of screenwriter and Twitter-clown extraordinaire, Max Landis. What he accomplishes with Me Him Her is a seemingly old-fashioned screwball comedy that quickly turns into a fever dream made for the millennial generation. This might be enough to scare a lot of people away, but I thought Me Him Her was a thoroughly enjoyable, character-driven comedy. I don’t think it’s a particularly amazing film, but it has flashes of greatness and loads of personality to hold everything together.
Though, if anything, there might be a little too much personality. This is easily the most unhinged we’ve seen from Max Landis and it could easily come across as obnoxious. It certainly rides that line between being charmingly idiosyncratic and gratingly self-satisfied with its own eccentricities. For me, after the first few minutes I fully gave myself into the film’s weirdness and found myself giggling like a maniac for a vast majority of the movie. It’s not really a movie of big laughs, apart from a few moments, it’s more of an appreciation of the smaller, character moments that put a big smile on your face. Though I will say,“Roar, I’m a penis!” is probably my favorite line of 2016 so far.
The movie also has plenty of energy going for it and it doesn’t really let up for it’s hour and 38 minute runtime. Visually, it’s a bit odd. It manages to be simultaneously popping in vibrant colors and flourishes in style, while at the same time, having that overlit TV quality. It takes a while to get used to, but it more or less contributes to the whole “blurring the line between dream and reality” thing, especially when combined with the strange sense of humor. Many moments stretch away from the grounded world set up in the first few scenes, and Landis, along with cinematographer, Ross Riege, use the vibrancy of the Los Angeles backdrop to create this almost otherworldly feel.
All the effort placed in Landis’ screenplay and from the crew would have easily been in vain had it not been for the surprisingly strong cast. A movie can be as weird as it wants, but if the cast isn’t fully game then it simply won’t work. Landis managed to find actors who somehow got his particular wavelength and were giving it their all. Luke Bracey is a joy to watch as this man slowly getting crushed by the pressures put on by society, I almost couldn’t believe this this was the same guy who I saw monotonously slogging through the Point Break remake just a few months ago. Emily Meade is probably the strongest in the cast, as she sells the comedy equally as well as she sells the real emotional stakes of her character’s inner struggles. Dustin Milligan is a bit shaky, as he sort of overdoes it at points, losing that tangible, emotional connection that Bracey and Meade do so well with, but he doesn’t ruin the movie and there’s still enough confidence in his delivery to not make his bumbling character the movie’s sour note. Angela Sarafyan is not in the movie that much, but she gets some enjoyably bizarre moments and then a completely bonkers turn towards the end. Then of course, there’s a solid supporting cast with the likes of Alia Shawkat, Rebecca Drysdale, Scott Bakula, Geena Davis, Chris Hardwick and Casey Wilson. There’s also a pretty great cameo from Haley Joel Osment, who plays an amazingly loony version of himself.
What makes Me Him Her that much better – or at the very least, more interesting – than any number of try-hard indie comedies is that while, on the surface, it’s pure go big or go home filmmaking that isn’t afraid to let its freak flag fly; when it comes to the characters, there is still a sense of empathy for them and their journey. It’s a movie that has a lot to say about identity since each of the characters are essentially dealing with a crisis of identity in their own weird ways. It deals in how we come to terms with it, how confused we are by it, and even how we are informed or confined by public perception. We end up surprised by how invested we become with these characters despite the ridiculousness happening around them and that is where I find a lot of my appreciation for Max Landis’ work.
Me Him Her might not end up as one of the best comedies of the year, but it does offer something fairly unique and worthwhile to anyone who can appreciate the insanity that Max Landis and his cast are throwing at you. There aren’t many screwball comedies these days and it’s nice to see one that brings something fresh to the subgenre. I love seeing artistic visions given the canvas to go for broke and, even under some obvious low budget restrictions, Me Him Her is a certain type of gleeful cinematic lunacy that I eat up. And underneath the Hollywood in-jokes, giant nightmare penis gags, and a big sword fight finale is a surprisingly resonant story about self-acceptance. Every moment feels like it’s about to lose its grip and fall completely off the rails, but that ends up being part of the fun and the fact that some of the sweeter moments work adds to that even more. It’s like what you get when you mix Woody Allen’s social banter and commentary with Kevin Smith’s pop-culture knowledge and the genre-savviness of someone like Edgar Wright or Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Which, depending on who you are, is either kind of awesome or potentially insufferable. As for me, I’m just hoping a giant screaming penis doesn’t haunt my nightmares. 70/100