One of the time-honored rules for comedy insists that you should always end with a wedding. The featherweight British romance Imagine Me & You flies in the face of tradition by starting with the nuptials, and that's about as radical as the film gets.
While walking down the aisle during her wedding, yuppie London bride Rachel (Piper Perabo) catches a split-second glimpse of hip florist Luce (Lena Headey). They chat each other up at the reception and then part ways, but as Rachel's marriage to Heck (Matthew Goode) continues, the new wife can't stop thinking about the other woman, even before she finds out that Luce is gay.
The characters spend a lot of time arguing over whether "love at first sight" really exists, and for a while you wonder if they're laying groundwork for the idea that if you meet your soul mate, gender is irrelevant. The Crying Game explored the knotty consequences of such a theme, but Imagine Me & You only skims the surface. Rachel frets over her feelings for Luce, but seems bothered more by the notion of hurting Heck than having to change her sexual orientation. Writer/director Ol Parker takes such pains to avoid sexual politics that Luce might as well be a man, and rather than scoring points for being open-minded about homosexuality, the film comes across as bland and timid.
The film reserves its best insights for the "honeymoon is over" phase for young marrieds, that time when the bloom goes off the rose and the domestic routine begins to take shape. Intriguing moments come from the subplot of Heck's life-sucking career as a sleazy salesman, and Goode injects some angry frustration into the sly nonchalance that marked his scene-stealing work in Match Point.
Parker seems determined to make nothing more than a low-budget version of a Hugh Grant-Hollywood rom-com. The cookie-cutter finale features a last-minute chase, an embarrassingly public declaration of love, and the strategic placement of the song "Happy Together." The opening lines of the Turtles' hit provides Imagine Me & You with its title -- but on top of that, we have to imagine a fresher, bolder movie free of clichés.
Opens Fri., Feb. 10, at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and Phipps Plaza.