The Baxter didn't live up to expectations, but it made a vital contribution to the vocabulary of romantic comedies by giving a name (the "Baxter," natch) to a sturdy romantic-comedy fixture: the decent, dependable boyfriend or husband fated merely to stand in the way of the volcanic force of true love. A truly exceptional Baxter throws off a romantic comedy's equilibrium by being more appealing than the leads, which is exactly what Matthew Goode does in Imagine Me & You, a slickly appealing romantic comedy stolen by Goode and his affable, self-deprecating British charm. Producers angling for the next Four Weddings And A Funeral would be wise to scoop up Goode for any role Hugh Grant turns down.
A romantic comedy that's agreeably droll, cynical, and tart on the edges, but soft and squishy at the center, the film casts Goode as the extraordinarily likeable new husband of flaky Piper Perabo, whose bi-curiosity is piqued by a sexy lesbian florist (Lena Headey) at her wedding. As the unseen but ubiquitous hand of narrative convenience continually brings them together, true romantics Headey and Perabo exchange charged glances and stumble their way through an awkward flirtation and eventual fumbling romance. Unfortunately, charged glances, moony speeches about the nature of love, and a common gender are just about all Perabo and the thinly conceived Headey seem to share.
Imagine Me & You shamelessly embraces every romantic-comedy cliché in the book, from the meet-cute (Headey first chats up Perabo after Perabo accidentally drops her wedding ring into a punchbowl) to the mad climactic dash to prevent an object of desire from leaving. But the film nearly works in spite of its adherence to formula, thanks to clever one-liners and appealing, sharply drawn supporting performances. And though the film seems headed toward raw, messy emotional terrain in its third act, writer-director Ol Parker sends it hurtling toward an unambiguously happy ending, even when that entails making spineless romantic masochism look like the apex of selfless devotion. Imagine Me & You is full of richly developed, lived-in relationships: Perabo and Goode, Goode and his horndog best pal, and Perabo's mother and father. It's just too bad that the central relationship between Perabo and Headey isn't one of them.