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(2000) (Rachel Griffiths, David Roberts) (R)

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Romantic Comedy: A single woman finds out what life would have been like had she married the love of her life years ago and had children as a twist of fate suddenly has her living that life.
Pamela Drury (RACHEL GRIFFITHS) is a single, thirty-something writer whose many accolades and awards can't make up for the fact that she's unhappy and still wonders what her life had been like had she stayed with Robert Dickson (DAVID ROBERTS), a successful architect she hasn't been involved with for more than a dozen years.

Despite that successful and rewarding career, Pamela feels that she's wasted her life and is jealous of seeing just how happy her friend and mom, Terri (REBECCA FRITH), is with her life and family. Even when she meets someone she thinks she could be happy with, in this case Ben (SANDY WINTON), a high school counselor, she discovers that he has a wife and kids.

Even so, she gets the chance to see whether life is greener on the other side of the fence when an odd occurrence has her meet herself during a run-in with a car driven by her doppelganger. Dazed and returning with Pamela Two to her suburban home, Pamela thinks that she's dreaming of being married to Robert and mother to his three kids, teenager Stacey (YAEL STONE), her younger obnoxious brother, Douglas (SHAUN LOSEBY), and the still being potty-trained Rupert (TRENT SULLIVAN).

When Pamela Two suddenly disappears, however, Pamela realizes she must play the part of herself had her life turned out this way. As such, she must figure out the daily routines of this new, other life, as well as her job as a contributing writer for Now Woman Magazine writing "how to keep him satisfied" articles for her pushy boss, Deirdre (CHRISTINE STEPHEN-DALY).

As she realizes that her dream life isn't all that it's cut out to be, and has various run-ins with people from her "other" life, including Ben and married friends Geoff (FELIX WILLIAMSON) and Janine (ANN BURBROOK), all who think she's Pamela Two, Pamela must come to grips with the facets of her new life and try to make everything right once again.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
The second chance at life scenario -- popularized in fiction with works such as Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and films ranging from "It's a Wonderful Life" to the plethora of late 1990's pictures such as "Sliding Doors," "Run Lola Run" and the barely seen but highly recommended "Open Your Eyes" - is revisited again with the release of the charming and enjoyable adult romantic comedy, "Me Myself I."

Whether it's due to the "what if" notion that most everyone has experienced in their lives ("What if I never met my husband?" "What if I had missed that flight last night?"), the thought that any major or minor change in one's past could and probably would have had major ramifications and altered the present/future, or simply the "Twilight Zone" like approach of someone getting to see or experience such changes, those types of stories are always intriguing and usually well done.

Like Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra's 1946 classic, Rachel Griffiths plays a depressed character who thinks that life isn't worth living. Instead of plotting a despondent leap from a bridge, however, Griffiths' character, Pamela, thinks a hairdryer in the bathtub should do the trick. Unfortunately for her, but in a rather funny moment, even that doesn't work out as planned.

Instead of then following the Dickens inspired plot of a supernatural being allowing the protagonist to see their future and realize that life isn't so bad, however, the film then has her live the life she's dreamed about, only to realize it's not quite what she had expected and/or imagined.

From that point on, the film utilizes a variety of storytelling elements to entertain the audience. The most obvious one, of course, is that the grass may be greener on the other side of the Twilight Zone, but that doesn't mean it's any easier to mow. Then there's the time travel type material of having two parallel universes where a character from one manages to affect, usually for the better, the life of their doppelganger.

The best and probably most enjoyable, however, is the spin on the old "fish out of water" tale. Although Pamela is "herself" to everyone else (they only think she's acting oddly), she knows next to nothing about her other self's habits and routines - not to mention secrets -- let alone how to be a wife or mother. The latter obviously allows for some "Mr. Mom" meets "Three Men and a Baby" moments, but despite the similarities, the material still comes off as fresh.

While it would have been easy for writer/director Pip Karmel (who makes her feature film debut in those roles after serving as the Oscar-nominated editor for the movie "Shine") to go for the easy and/or big laughs, she opts instead to include a series of smaller, more understated ones and the effect works quite well.

As in any sort of film like this (at least where the character is aware of the surreal turn of events), the objective is for the protagonist to learn about himself or herself, and that's certainly the case here. Interestingly enough, Karmel not only delivers that requisite discovery, but also the notion that one's life is nothing but a series of chance encounters that determine its course. While that may sound depressing and pessimistic or of taking an anti-free will stance, it never comes off as either.

Instead, it's near uniformly light and airy, with some poignant moments nicely mixed with the more humorous and thought-provoking ones. Much of that obviously stems from Karmel's well-polished efforts that show more finesse than one is accustomed to seeing from first-time directors. While the general fantasy plot is the most obvious of her efforts, the inclusion of subtle little nuances, often playfully diversionary in form, indicate that Karmel may just become a filmmaking force to be reckoned with in the near future.

It also doesn't hurt that Oscar nominated actress Rachel Griffiths (for "Hilary and Jackie," she also appeared in "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Muriel's Wedding") inhabits the central role and delivers a wonderful performance filled with just the right touches of wonderment, passion and even pathos to make her seem human. One could easily see any of today's "A-list" of actresses playing the part - it's written and constructed that well - but it would be tough to surpass what Griffiths does with it.

David Roberts (marking his first major role in a feature film after working in theater and TV), who plays her husband and object of her fantasies and affection, is good in the role as is Sandy Winton (also making his feature debut) as the "other man" in her life. Supporting performances, from newcomers Yael Stone, Shaun Loseby and little Trent Sullivan as their three kids are solid and add just the right comedic touches to the proceedings and Pamela's interesting predicament.

While the film's low budget and "small" look will probably ensure a rather quick trip to the video store shelves, Karmel and Griffiths instill the picture with enough heart, polish and pizzazz to make it seem like a big studio production. Charming, funny and containing just the right touches of heartfelt moments and fantasy, the title of this film may make it sound as if it suffers from a bizarre personality disorder, but the only diagnosis this film gets is a glowing recommendation. We give "Me Myself I" a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 19, 2000 / Posted April 28, 2000

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