Hyperactive Smarm: Me Him Her

me him her

Me Him Her
Directed by Max Landis
Opens March 11

Early in Me Him Her, Corey (Dustin Milligan) lands at the Los Angeles airport, and collecting his bag, accidentally hits a child in the face. “You’re a horrible person, Corey!” the child cries (the inexplicability of him knowing Corey’s name presumably part of the joke). “That’s harsh,” Corey replies, and then, freeze-frame: Written and Directed by Max Landis. The credit placement seems like either winking self-deprecation or winking self-defense; it’s hard to tell.

What’s weird is that, like the “Hall H” joke in Landis’s script for the recent Victor Frankenstein, it assumes a certain level of Los Angeles geek-scene knowledge. Max Landis, son of director/raconteur John Landis, has also written, in addition to Victor Frankenstein, some good movies (Chronicle; American Ultra); also apparently has a reputation of hyperactive smarminess, and may have been the inspiration for Jesse Eisenberg’s upcoming portrayal of Lex Luthor.

I had to learn all of this somewhat belatedly because I do not live in Los Angeles and I do not follow Max Landis on Twitter. What I’ve gleaned from his Twitter is that he says stupid things about Rey from The Force Awakens not having enough human weakness for his tastes. What I’ve gleaned from Me Him Her is that Los Angeles is weird, man (his observations about the city, while frequent, don’t get much deeper than that)—and that his idea of a truly well-rounded female character is Gabbi (Emily Meade), who identifies as a lesbian but has a one-night stand with Corey almost as soon as he arrives in town. Corey is there to counsel his buddy Brendan (Luke Bracey), an actor who has just realized that he is gay.

But back to Gabbi, because that is where the movie keeps going. She’s just out of a relationship with a woman who is so cartoonishly evil that Landis has a character exclaim “she’s cartoonishly evil!” to excuse it. She also sings a karaoke version of Eve 6’s “Inside Out,” which I admit is appealing, but serves mostly to telegraph her generic dreamgirl lostness; the movie never digs into her identity. The earnest quasi-hipster wrestling with how LA is totally weird, man, occupies Gabbi and Corey and threatens to edge Brendan out of the story entirely. It’s nice that Landis doesn’t default the trio of a straight guy, gay guy, and gay-ish girl into musty sex farce, but after about forty mildly amusing knockabout minutes (sample dialogue exchange: “Do you know how many guy friends I have?” “Six?”), Me Him Her goes into time-killing soul-searching mode and only shakes out of it long enough to rip off Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In addition to the poor man’s Scott Pilgrim, the movie also resembles a poor man’s Gregg Araki and a poor man’s Chasing Amy, which is weird because I bet Max Landis is rich.

He’s also not untalented; again, see Chronicle and Ultra, and as a director he at least knows how to punctuate slapstick with a sharp cut. But Me Him Her is the work of someone who lives, breathes, and loves Los Angeles to such a noxiously myopic degree that providing an actual sense of place holds little interest for him. It’s also a movie basically about a dude convincing another dude to convince a lady to do what’s best for herself and ditch another lady. It’s the kind of sexism that’s easy to miss when you’re constantly staring at yourself in the mirror.

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