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Friendship from teen years to adulthood believable

By Christy Lemire, The Associated Press
Tuesday July 09, 2002

‘Me Without You’ 

Movie review 


The first half of “Me Without You” is so compelling, that it’s a real disappointment when the second half collapses. 

The movie stars Michelle Williams of “Dawson’s Creek” and Anna Friel as Holly and Marina, best friends who grew up next door to each other in suburban London in the 1970s and ’80s, and form a suffocating, co-dependent relationship. 

Writer-director Sandra Goldbacher follows them from girlhood through their teenage years, college and their early 20s, with a 2001 coda that wraps everything up too easily and feels tacked-on. 

The first part of the movie is evocative of the time — with its big hair and poofy skirts and songs from The Clash and Depeche Mode — without going over the top for laughs, like Adam Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer.” 

Early on, Williams and Friel are completely believable in their best-friends-for-life fervor — an aspect of the movie that may appeal more to women than men. When you’re 15, an all-encompassing female bond can seem crucial, impenetrable. Goldbacher, who based the story on a childhood friendship of her own, clearly understands that. 

She also accurately depicts the need for teenage girls to belong. Holly and Marina try too hard to look cool when they show up at a punk party wearing torn fishnets and dresses fashioned from black garbage bags, and they have no qualms about doing drugs and engaging in casual sex if it means they’ll be accepted. The scene works because it’s played matter-of-factly, and not for shock value; this is what teenagers do. 

But the movie’s second section is less vivid, and Goldbacher makes it hard to believe that Marina and Holly’s friendship could withstand such bitterness and jealousy as the young women become adults. 

Marina seems to have it all — she’s beautiful, stylish and vivacious. Her mother (Trudie Styler) chain smokes, drinks and pops pills, which gives her a glamorous edge in Holly’s eyes; her father, an airline pilot, is never there. 

Holly is the more serious one — she’s studious, introspective and conservative. Her parents are stable but overprotective. She believes she’s a good girl and dreams of becoming a writer, but her mother repeatedly puts her down. 

Each girl has insecurities, though, and each wants to live the other’s life. 

They make a pact as young girls to stay friends forever, which becomes increasingly difficult as they mature. Holly has a crush on college lecturer Daniel (a sleazy, duplicitous Kyle MacLachlan), which prompts Marina to go after him, too. Holly’s always carried a torch for Marina’s cute, romantic older brother, Nat (Oliver Milburn), which Marina repeatedly tries to snuff out. 

Friel, whose previous films include Barry Levinson’s “An Everlasting Piece” is impossible to stop watching.  

Williams — doing a flawless British accent — shows far more depth then her “Dawson’s Creek” role ever allowed her to display.  

Even when the script weakens toward the end, Friel and Williams work beautifully together, and their on-screen chemistry seems effortless.