TORONTO REVIEW: "Me Myself I" Narcissistic and Sweet Tale of What if?
by Stephen Garrett
Sweet and clever, this surrealistic Aussie “what if” meditation on alternate universes and paths less taken is an auspicious filmmaking debut from award-winning editor Pip Karmel (“Shine“). At times bordering on overly sentimental in its “I’m a single woman and I’m OK” sisterhood affirmation but overall, the film is crisply written and directed. Reaction at the movie’s first public screening in Toronto was high, with a packed house of Canuck cineastes warmly laughing and enjoying the crowd-pleasing chick flick that also had some detractors mumbling about the film’s narrative similarities with the double-take drama “Sliding Doors.” Already snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics before the festival began, “Me Myself I” has bright commercial prospects and just enough Pop-psychology metaphysics in it to keep the date crowd standing on line.
Sydney career girl Pamela Drury (Rachel Griffiths), acclaimed investigative journalist for “Focal Point” magazine, is so consumed with work that she spends her 30th birthday on a fizzled personals-ad blind date and ends up home alone, drunk and perusing old photos of ex-boyfriends including “Mr. Right”: Robert Dickson (David Roberts), the love of her life and the one that got away. Obsessed with the words of a clairvoyant who told her she would be married with two kids by the end of her twenties, Pamela can’t help but feel restless and nagged by doubts that she made the wrong choices in life — feelings that so depress her she borders on suicide.
Then a freak car accident changes all that when Pamela almost gets run over by a woman who turns out to be her doppelganger — the Pamela who decided to marry Robert and settle down. In her case, the two kids actually turned out to be three, with a dog to boot; and the career-driven Pamela suddenly finds the married Pamela has disappeared, leaving her to take over the position and slip into the role she has been fantasizing about for years. But the reality is nothing like what she was imagining: the kids are raucous, with a boy still too young to be completely potty-trained, another who mouths off to her and a girl with punkish dyed hair on the cusp of puberty.
And the marriage is far from picture-perfect since Robert is a routine husband, well-meaning but virtually oblivious to Pamela until her newfound sexual hunger and spunky independent spirit turn his head and make him work harder at pleasing her. The seams in their relationship are deep, and suddenly that hunky married man she was infatuated with as a single woman, is a bachelor in this parallel world, eventually tempting Pamela into infidelity. Soon enough Pamela finds herself wondering how she can get out of being married with children and somehow return to the single life she once despised.
Karmel’s insights into marital bliss and blues, as well as the basic human longing to want the things that someone else has, makes for a compelling reflection on the value of self-worth in and out of relationships; and her storytelling interweaves Pamela’s cause-and-effect emotional dynamics in surprisingly witty ways. The result is a movie that tends to embrace Pamela’s skin-deep, self-help “I deserve the best and I accept the best” platitudes with a bit too much relish and may strike some as the ultimate in thematic self-involvement — hard to avoid, really, with a title like “Me Myself I” — but most others will overlook its borderline narcissism and see the tale as a grandly entertaining journey of self-discovery.