Imagine Me & You

To the people who fear “Brokeback Mountain” has a gay-lifestyle-promoting agenda, or that it gives its two main characters a free pass on breaking up their marriages: Well, you’re wrong, first of all; the movie doesn’t do that. But a movie that does is “Imagine Me & You.” That’s the one you should be angry about.

On her wedding day, a Londoner named Rachel (Piper Perabo) meets the florist who decorated the reception, a pretty, feminine lesbian named Luce (Lena Headey). Rachel is drawn to Luce as a friend, even trying to set her up with a buddy of her husband’s before learning Luce doesn’t care so much for the menfolk, romance-wise.

A friendship very naturally evolves, with Rachel and hubby Heck (Matthew Goode) having Luce over for dinner, running into each other at the grocery store, going to soccer games together, and so forth. Luce knows that though there might be some attraction between her and Rachel, she should not make a move on her. Rachel knows that though she has feelings for Luce that she can’t entirely understand, they ought to be repressed. She loves her husband dearly. Besides, she’s straight, isn’t she?

Where it goes from there is not surprising or revolutionary; it’s a sunny comedy, not a tragic-romance weepy, and its “love yourself for who you are” message is unmistakable. It’s often funny, nearly always appealing — and yet I feel like Ol Parker, who wrote and directed it, has gotten some of her wires crossed.

Rachel’s parents, frosty Tessa (Celia Imrie) and the henpecked, defeated Ned (Anthony Head), start as comic relief, representing everything that can go wrong in a marriage. Yet ultimately even this one-joke couple gets a bit of depth as they make an attempt at understanding and reconciliation. The message? Marriage is good, and even bad ones may be salvageable.

But that CAN’T be the movie’s point, not with the way things turn out for Luce and Rachel. Is that tacked on? Is it to provide a little heart-warming without regard for what signal it sends?

I pity poor Heck, the decent, likable fellow who’s married to Rachel. Parker goes out of her way to show us what a great guy he is, with two scenes set at his soul-crushing corporate job that demonstrate his integrity. Why go to such trouble to prove the saintliness of a character who’s only going to get screwed over? Because, alas, those scenes also underscore what I believe is the film’s central theme: Just as Heck must be true to himself at work, Rachel must ultimately be true to herself in matters of the heart. Sorry, Heck. The fact that you’re such a great guy is the very reason why you should understand Rachel’s decision to leave you.

That’s the part I can’t quite get onboard with. Not that Rachel ought to stay in a marriage that’s hopeless, of course, nor that Luce might not be better for her than Heck. But Rachel’s decision feels rushed, like we are supposed to accept that she’s a full-fledged lesbian now simply because the movie tells us she is. What it LOOKS like is that she has a crush on a girl and impulsively decides to run off with her. That might be romantic, but it seldom goes well in the real world, and it’s not fair to the ones you leave behind. A little more thought into the characters’ motives and the consequences of their actions might have made the film more resonant, instead of fluffy and mildly puzzling the way it is.

B- (1 hr., 33 min.; R, a few F-words, brief glimpses of some X-rated video boxes.)