I deserve the best and I accept the best.
A warm, funny take on the fundamental "what if" question that so often faces many of us as we get older, Me Myself I works for me on nearly every level. The film takes the old regrets and what might have beens for a 30-something journalist and does the hackneyed "body switch" plot device on her so that she can find out what really "might have been." Though the alternate reality plot has been done, in such films as Sliding Doors and even It's a Wonderful Life, I still liked the fresh way in which it was done. Call me sentimental (not something I'm usually accused of) but I liked this film, and liked Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie) even better. Sony Pictures Classics (actually Columbia TriStar) has released this Australian gem on DVD, giving many in the US their first chance to see it.
Facts of the Case
Pamela Drury is a very successful journalist. She writes for a high quality magazine and wins awards so often she has little place to keep them. But she isn't happy; even though she has led an exciting life she has done so alone, and depends on little motivational sayings such as "I love and approve of myself," "I deserve the best and I accept the best," and "I am in the rhythm and flow of ever-changing life" to prop up her self-esteem. It doesn't work, and in her depression asks the question "What if I had accepted that marriage proposal" from "Mr. Right" years ago? Soon she gets the chance to find out when she is in a car accident with…herself. The self that did marry Robert Dixon 13 years ago and now has a husband and three kids. "Pamela 2" brings "our Pamela" to her home and they have a brief time of explaining about each other's lives. Obviously they've led exactly the same life right up to the moment where one accepted the marriage proposal and the other did not. But when the kids arrive shouting, "Mum," she turns and is alone.
Suddenly she is thrust into a life she knows little about, in an alternate universe where all the people in her life know her as the wife and mother. From dealing with potty training to a relationship with her husband that has grown distant, she meanders through this alternate life and tries to find her way. Is this life as good as she thought it could be? Or is this how she will come to realize that her "real" life was the better choice? While she finds out these answers she must also deal with the choices the other Pamela made that are now "her" choices.
There are plenty of pitfalls that a filmmaker could fall into with this type of premise. One that I think director and writer Pip Karmel (in her first feature) avoided nicely is that she didn't try to explain how the two Pamelas could meet or switch universes. They're simply together for a short time and then they're not. Trying to explain this with pseudo science (though there are quantum mechanics theories that might suffice) or any other device would have ruined the fantasy. I was also pleased that the film didn't tread over the same ground as other such films; finding new and more subtle ways to approach the subject. After her initial shock and confusion, she undertakes the running of this new life with the strengths she has gained from her former one, with often funny and delightful results. Of course those strengths don't extend to knowing how to deal with a teenager with bright pink hair or potty training, but she takes these on as well.
Actually, it is not the story that works so well as it is the way it is presented. The film doesn't try to delve into deep philosophy or present a moral message about which life is better, and remains a bit simple. But Rachel Griffiths is simply delightful in the role of the two Pamelas. She is smart, perceptive, yet has emotional depth and knows her limitations. Knowing those limitations does not always mean she can accept them, but that is another matter. Besides the child actors (uniformly professional, especially the 4 year old!) Griffiths has two co-stars to carry the film. David Roberts plays Robert Dixon, the man she might have (and in this universe did) marry years ago, and carries his role off well, playing aloof and oblivious at times but later showing his own emotions. The other is Sandy Winton, who plays his own version of two directions his life could go; and might have been Pamela's true Mr. Right in one of them. I respect the performances given by both male leads, but the film is still Rachel Griffiths. She carries the film on her shoulders squarely, and meets the challenge wonderfully.
Columbia is known for high quality with their DVD productions, and this is no exception. The film is given a great anamorphic transfer in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The level of detail is high; with great contrast and color balance. Fleshtones and blacks are great, and I have almost no complaints. The sound is quite good as well. While this comedy/drama type film does not demand a lot from its soundtrack, it easily meets all expectations. Bass response, dynamic range, and clarity are all outstanding. The surrounds mainly get used for a few ambient sounds and Charlie Chan's (that's right, you heard me) pleasant musical score. The dialogue is clear, but since all the actors are Australian there did come a time or two when I had difficulty understanding it because of the accents. Subtitles came in handy during those few moments.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Extra content is light for the disc, but it does have a director's commentary track. The commentary does a scene-by-scene analysis of how it was done and the problems getting the shot, but it was very dry. Karmel seemed hesitant as she pieced her way through it, and too often fell into telling us the plot (Here is when she…) when presumably you've already seen the film. At least I don't believe in watching the commentary track until after I've seen the film. This was her first feature film, and I know she is still finding her way around, so I don't want to judge her too harshly, but it wasn't my favorite commentary. Besides the commentary track, talent files and several trailers complete the extras. Not a lot there, unless you like various trailers.
I found the film warm, funny, and a simple delight. Rachel Griffiths' fine performance and the way the film moves makes this a worthwhile film to watch, and the disc qualifies for purchase despite the extra content that I did not find compelling. If you think this might not be your cup of tea, try a rental. I think you'll be pleased.
Me Myself I and Columbia are both acquitted, and I thank them for bringing this little-seen film out on DVD for us to enjoy.
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