The mediocrity begins with florist Luce (Lena Headey) meeting Rachel (Piper Perabo) at her wedding to lifelong friend-become-lover Heck (Mathew Goode channeling Hugh Grant). They become smitten girlfriends since Rachel remains sexually confused. And, though Luce tells Heck she's gay -- and he tells womanizer buddy "Coop" (Darren Boyd) -- Heck remains blind to her and his wife's mutual attraction.
Luce stimulates Rachel's sexuality; still she retreats to her safe, passionless hetero-commitment. Rachel wants to believe that romantic love is delusion, but eventually she surrenders to passion with Luce, only to guiltily break it off. But Heck is as understanding as (finally) perceptive, and he graciously steps out of Rachel's way. A little help from Rachel's unassuming parents (Anthony Head, Celia Imrie), and the romantic chase is on, setting the stage for the gals' version of happily ever after.
Imagine has myriad faults. Everything works out too smoothly for everyone. Everyone tows the spineless line of presenting homosexuality as social norm while diffusing its uniqueness. Furthermore, the characters' suffering is as artificial as their personalities. Rachel is too wishy-washy, Heck too laissez-faire. To boot, there's no backstory to our lovers' lives, making them less identifiable. Newbie director/writer Ol Parker needs no reasons for the lesbianism beyond the sheepishly prurient -- e.g., "C'mon -- they're two hot chicks!"
And yet, when Luce and Rachel finally get together, their passion has an underwhelming, prepubescent feel. This conspicuous lack of daring in such a provocative premise suggests an agenda, like the need to hand-hold homophobic middle America (and middle UK). Why? To bring homosexual romantic comedy into the mainstream? Who said that's the paragon of having "made it?" More significant would be that cinematic romance-equality for all sexual persuasions helps us, as a race, accept that surrendering to infatuation doesn't solve everything any more than spitefully refusing to do so. Maybe then more romantic comedies will give their due to loss, sacrifice, and fear, even if "happily ever afters" reign eternal.
It's ironic that the film's own lovers see the riskiest thing of all as taking no risk, while the exotic premise of them is painted plain vanilla. In trying to please everybody, Imagine fails its own test, opting for a childish send-up to the wouldn't-it-be-nice lyrics of "Happy Together." Romance is fine and dandy, but when it's treated as the cake, instead of the icing on it, you hardly end up with an authentic, interesting story. You end up with, well... "Happy Together."
Films like this take solace in simplistic analogies -- "unstoppable forces" and "immovable objects." Love in this universe is equated with romance is equated with infatuation. By implication, anything not on fire -- i.e., Rachel + Heck -- is presumed insignificant and must bow out. The law: Romantic and platonic love are unrelated. Obey or stand in the way of "nature." To Imagine's simple mind, there is no restraining what feels "unstoppable." Because it's unromantic? Since when?
The film has some cute jokes and sexy looks. A sensual-sweet moment between Luce and Rachel at a soccer game and a kissie-fumbly scene "in the closet" (honest!). Nevertheless, there's more heat to be found in your average animated Disney romance. (For a much less timid attempt at this material, see Kissing Jessica Stein.)
A shame Headey and Perabo don't have a script more interested in pushing the envelope than pushing P.C. attitudes about homoeroticism. After all, passion is clearly simmering in their eyes. Unfortunately, we're left only to "imagine" how captivating they could be if allowed to act outside the lines.
DVD extras include director's commentary, Q&A with the cast and crew, and deleted scenes (with or without commentary).
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 25th May 2006
Box Office USA: $0.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $2.5M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
Production compaines: BBC Films
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 65
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Ol Parker
Producer: Sophie Balhetchet, Barnaby Thompson, Andro Steinborn
Screenwriter: Ol Parker
Starring: Piper Perabo as Rachel, Lena Headey as Luce, Matthew Goode as Heck, Celia Imrie as Tessa, Darren Boyd as Cooper, Sharon Horgan as Beth, Sue Johnston as Ella, Boo Jackson as H, Vinette Robinson as Zina, Eva Birthistle as Edie, Anthony Stewart Head as Ned, Angel Coulby as Anna
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