- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Despite the somewhat camouflaged presence of Michelle Williams, a "Dawson's Creek" fixture, in one of the leading roles, "Me Without You" is such a shamelessly trashy and self-pitying English movie that it seems appropriate to sneer and say rude things with jolly good vehemence.
Depending on the absurdities at hand, "Twits" would be the handiest insult to hurl at the screen, littered with the psychodrama of director Sandra Goldbacher's unresolved girlhood and prolonged adolescence.
A battery of jokes accompanied the release of "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" a few months ago. The best was an apocryphal claim that men would be refused admission if, by some remote chance, they happened to buy a ticket to a movie clearly preoccupied with generational and fraternal conflicts among women. If "Ya-Ya" was overspecialized, "Me Without You" is off the chart.
Miss Goldbacher appears for a while to be laying the foundation for a variation on Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures," a memorably ominous account of an adolescent bond that festered into homicidal passion.
Happily for the filmmaker, her own case history fell short of criminal turbulence and entrapment, but it also lacks the gravity of a fatalistic account, making it easier for mockery to pile up as the continuity updates the mismatched principals Miss Williams as introspective, yearning Holly and Anna Friel as volcanic, hell-raising Marina over a period that approaches 30 years.
The characters are introduced as girls, inseparable next-door neighbors, circa 1973; Miss Goldbacher bids them adieu as matrons, circa 2001. Most of the updates, at roughly five-year intervals, belabor the teen and college years, when they remain imprudently inseparable.
For example, while undergraduates at a university in Brighton, Holly and Marina sustain an increasingly squalid intimacy as roomies, hysterics and romantic rivals. The advisability of cultivating new friends and dependencies when you leave home has never been illustrated more persuasively.
Nevertheless, traces of false pride play havoc with any cautionary aspects. If Miss Goldbacher were more of a humorist, even the hysteric stuff might have a redemptive role to play in overcoming youthful insecurity and neurosis.
"Me Without You" never seems to transcend the pathetic, frenzied and lurid. Holly nurses a lifelong crush on Marina's older brother Nat (Oliver Milburn), a dubious golden boy who takes about two decades to become eligible, having hitched himself to a French actress named Isabel (Marianne Denicourt).
Holly and Marina scrape the bottom carnally while lending themselves to the lechery of a visiting American professor named Daniel (Kyle MacLachlan), a fashionable fraud (deconstruction and semiotics are his academic boondoggles) whom I was hoping to see deported or castrated.
Although dismissed as a weakling once Holly is seduced and deceived, Daniel still seems to get off rather lightly. The filmmaker attaches too much glamour and envy to youthful dissipation to permit Holly a sane awakening.
Miss Goldbacher seems to regard her acknowledged alter ego as an erotic charity case, never able to compete with the brazen Marina, a galloping trollop as a coed, or break away from emotional dependence on the privileged, unsupervised siblings next door.
There is a funny turn of events in the later stages: Raised by straight-laced and fretful Jewish parents, Holly gets to see Marina contemplate conversion after becoming engaged to a Jewish doctor.
It seems a pity something similarly disillusioning wasn't invented for Nat, but again, Miss Goldbacher imposes such a needful, lovelorn sensibility that Holly is deprived of anything that would resemble a cleansing humorous deliverance.
Miss Williams demonstrates that she can simulate an English accent as proficiently as Gwyneth Paltrow or Renee Zellweger. The role keeps her in a pathetic straitjacket, but when you recall the slapstick interludes inflicted on Miss Zellweger as Bridget Jones, Holly may be the more flattering assignment.
Miss Friel seemed a standout in both "An Everlasting Piece" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but the demands of Marina, an upper-crust wild girl who makes mere nice girls whimper with envy, are quite preposterous.
The type remains irresistible to scandal-mongers and tart-watchers, but unless you have the next Angelina Jolie to brandish, authenticating it is usually a hoot. The hoots abound while Marina disgraces herself.

1/2 *
TITLE: "Me Without You"
RATING: R (Frequent profanity and systematic sexual candor and vulgarity; plot revolves around the promiscuous behavior of two young women; allusions to drug use and addiction)
CREDITS: Directed by Sandra Goldbacher.
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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