At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, writers Jefrey Levy and Susan Traylor have created a veritable masterpiece of schizophrenic cinema with their disarmingly titled film Me. Featuring perhaps one of the least reliable narrators to grace the screen in the last 50 years, our ostensible protagonist is the disheveled lump of a reality television producer, Levy. Locked away in a secluded mansion, and draping himself in the manner of the nouveau riche, Levy has become convinced that he is the centerpiece of a hit reality television show. However, he’s also come to the conclusion that ratings are down and enlists the aid of his friend Susan to help right the ship, so to speak. For her part, Susan has just come off a failed pilot for an “amalgamated animal” show and is eager to take on a new job.
Sensing that Levy has basically come off the rails, Susan opportunistically pounces and decides to set up her own reality show in order to capitalize on Levy’s fame and delusional state. She pitches this idea to “network” in the form of David (Sam Trammell), who after a bit of cajoling, agrees to the idea. We come to discover among Levy’s many idiosyncrasies, that he is crass, lonely and quite a fantastic hypochondriac. And, as we are engrossed with the spectacle of Levy, the filmmakers perform a feat of cinematic magic and plunk you right down in the seat of the protagonist. It’s not that they break the fourth wall, but rather that they sneak up behind you and box you in with the damn thing. Dear reader, once you are in Levy’s world, it’s a whole other matter to find your way back out, and that’s if you even realize you slipped down the rabbit hole to begin with.
In the midst of the chaos, we are met with a parade of actors of the highest caliber, but yet, none of them are ever what they seem. That is, except for the fact that they are, at all times, exactly what they seem. I don’t mean to be cryptic here, but it very much bears on the story at hand. For example, about half-way through the film, we find the ultra talented Gina Gershon arriving to Susan’s reality show set dressed as Lady Gaga. Later, Susan tells “network” David that it’s not really Gina, but an impersonator, hired to help boost ratings. In fact Susan says, the real Ms. Gershon wouldn’t even return her calls. All the while, Levy is outside having a grand old time with the Gina Gershon impersonator — played by Gina Gershon.
It is this really fun twist on reality that makes Me such a joy to watch. As we get carried along by the whirling current, one starts to wonder if it’s even Levy’s world to begin with. As Susan struggles to keep ratings up on her newly minted hit reality show, she slips further along into her own brand of madness. She relentlessly pushes and pulls and tugs at Levy, trying to get him to go this way and that, but something or someone always seems to confound her grand schemes. Rather than be defeated though, she simply reshapes her view of reality to make it all work, much as any madman (or madwoman) might when confronted with an intractable or unlikely barrier. In a sense, this sums the genius of the film, as what is required of Susan to complete her quest is much the same as that required of the viewer.
Which is to say, that we just accept the reality we see and move along with it. It’s not until later, when it’s calm and we can think straight, that we realize we never saw the network. Or the studio. Or anything to truly give us a firm footing to stand upon in our reality. The brilliance is that, in the end, we never really knew who was who, and what was what, almost like madmen ourselves. With that said, I’d wager that the snip that might cut Levy’s Gordian knot is best reflected in the title or — perhaps more accurately — in the answer to the question, “what movie did you just watch?”
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