On the Subject of Me


A cozy, affirmative fantasy, Me Myself I relies on shopworn metaphysics to illustrate any number of cockeyed truisms about destiny and regret—or, more likely, to disguise their sheer banality. The movie collapses philosophical conundrums it barely understands into a fixed smile and a pat on the back: Whatever choice you make, it insists with the sinister, obstinate vapidity of a self-help manual, is the right one. In short, its answer to “What if?” is “Who cares?”

Pamela (Rachel Griffiths) is a driven Sydney journalist, a thirtyish single woman in the Ally/Bridget mold—angsty, mouthy, unlucky in love—and first-time writer-director Pip Karmel outlines her protagonist’s initial plight in crude, smeared shorthand. A colleague plonks down an award on Pamela’s desk in the first five minutes; she runs around busily investigating a story (“It’s about girls today,” she announces with mystifying smugness). But her personal life is a wash—she celebrates her birthday with an abortive blind date, then goes home to cry over an old boyfriend. Just in time, a freak accident sends the borderline-suicidal Pamela crashing through a sliding door on the space-time continuum; she ends up face-to-face with a different version of herself—married to the one that got away and raising three brats with him in suburbia. What follows is a grindingly obvious mix of mild fish-out-of-water comedy and grass-is-always-greener awakening.

A versatile, unshowy actor, Griffiths keeps the movie watchable, but Karmel elbows her screenplay’s questionable assumptions into bold relief. Me Myself I positions itself as a women’s film, but its attempts to explore the tensions between career and family are hamstrung by its central gimmick, which presents the two as mutually exclusive. The movie’s title says plenty—supposedly evocative of Pamela’s identity crisis but more suggestive of terminal self-absorption. Me Myself I promotes the kind of skewed introspection that has time only for uplift—it’s a feel-good, fatalist placebo, and the coating of New Age goop makes it even more difficult to swallow.

A quickie release timed to coincide with the film version of American Psycho (due in theaters next week), This Is Not an Exit—subtitled The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis (why not Me Myself I?) and produced for British TV in 1998—is in fact the worst imaginable form of publicity for Mary Harron’s already much beleaguered movie. Bret reads from his books—poolside, as if for the first time—while the camera zooms in for a close-up of his mouth; Bret discusses his formative years (words like alienation and aloneness feature prominently); Bret runs the gamut of pretentious-celebrity-brat doublespeak, from false modesty to righteous victimhood. The dramatizations of passages from Ellis’s novels—with a “cast” that includes Rachel Weisz, Dechen Thurman as Patrick Bateman, and for no reason at all, John Bryan, the man known exclusively for sucking Fergie’s toes—have an airless, tone-deaf, brain-dead quality that may or may not be intentional.