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Do you believe in love at first sight? Rachel doesn’t – not until the day of her wedding at least. Unfortunately, the person on the other end of this discovery isn’t the man waiting in a tux for her at the altar. In fact, it isn’t a man at all.
So starts the British romantic comedy “Imagine Me & You,” the directoral debut of writer and director Ol Parker.
The film opens with blushing-bride Rachel (Piper Perabo) on the morning of her wedding. She is giddy and radiant, looking forward to saying “I do” to Heck (Matthew Goode), her longtime boyfriend.
By all accounts theirs is a fairy-tale wedding. It is exactly the kind of thing straight girls dream of, and Rachel seemingly has no reason to question whether she and Heck will live “happily ever after.” That is, until she locks eyes with Luce on her way down the aisle. It is a glance that will change her life, though she doesn’t quite know why at first.
Rachel and Luce, a florist hired by Rachel’s mother to do the flowers, speak briefly at the reception and might have never seen each other again if it weren’t for Heck’s best man, Coop (Darren Boyd), the affable ladies’ man. Coop quickly sets his sights on Luce, determined to “shag” her. What he doesn’t realize, and what Rachel doesn’t know when she invites both Coop and Luce over for a blind date, is that Luce is a lesbian. Of course, in typical straight guy fashion, once Coop finds this out, it only makes him more determined.
Meanwhile, Rachel and Luce hit it off. However, it’s clear that this relationship is more than just a friendship, which confuses and scares the hell out of Rachel. Luce, not keen on breaking up a newly married couple, let alone going after a presumably straight girl (as straight as a Barbie doll, Luce’s friend warns her), is unsettled as well.
Thus begins a series of awkward, tense moments as the women work through – often avoiding, sometimes confronting – the sexual tension between them. Throwing a wrench in the works is Heck, Rachel’s devoted, sweet and very handsome new husband, who she desperately doesn’t want to hurt. She loves him, though it’s dawning on her that she might not be in love with him.
“Imagine Me & You” takes a lot of cues from romantic comedies like “Love, Actually” and “Four Weddings and A Funeral,” including a flawlessly attractive cast. Director Parker uses the genre’s cliches shamelessly. The twist, of course, is that the two romantic leads are women. However, a film that could easily have come off as gimmicky and one-dimensional is saved by a formidable cast and a quick-witted script.
Perabo and Headey are gorgeous and believable enough together, but the cast of characters around them is the rising tide, lifting their boat and keeping it from scraping the bottom.
Goode is wonderful as Heck. He’s cute, charming, witty and in no way deserves his heart broken, making Rachel’s struggle even more difficult. He’s also better looking and a better actor than Hugh Grant, who he is often compared to.
Darren Boyd saves Coop, Heck’s best bud, from being a one-dimensional frat boy. Though Rachel’s mother claims Coop would “shag an open wound,” Boyd gives him a sensitive side that comes through just enough to keep him likable, even when he says things like, “I’m a cure for lesbianism.”
Rachel’s father, played by Anthony Head, is often a scene-stealer, as is Rachel’s precocious little sister H (Boo Jackson).
“Imagine Me & You” is being marketed to a mass audience, and in the wake of the success of “Brokeback Mountain” will most likely do well. Some straight folks might be taken aback by the plot’s premise (at the screening, there were clearly folks happy to see a free film who didn’t quite know what they were getting into. There were some audible gasps as the plot unfolded, despite the utter predictability of it) and some lesbians might bristle at the “straight man’s fantasy lesbians” portrayed on the screen, or just be disappointed at the lack of sex.
“Imagine Me & You” is pure, fluffy entertainment. It is not a film trying to make a political statement. It does not pretend to be cinema verite – in fact, I found the reaction of Rachel’s husband and parents to be overly understanding. It’s a movie that lets you root for love wherever it’s found and doesn’t require you to root against anybody in the process. It doesn’t try to break your heart, but it does try to make your heart a bit bigger and sweeter.