Needful Things... I mean, Me Without You, juggles several themes without a catastrophy - does this make for great entertainment? Not necessarily, though there is certainly enough here to mull over.
The "story" involves two young girls; next door neighbors who probably, if they weren't next door neighbors, would not have connected.
In one corner you have Holly, the product of a stable Jewish family, who has been told since a toddler that she has brains, not beauty.
In the other, you have her opposite, Marina, from a broken family whose mother instills the virtue of beauty.
Once the two main charactors are introduced you get to live with them for the next 30 years via a series of vignettes that, taken seperatly, are often flat and uninvolving, but as a whole take on new life and direction.
While the early part of the film wallows in pathos and boredom, there is a much deeper subtext that makes this film watchable.
I made the lil joke about needful things, because that's what all the charactors are, especially Marina. Whether it's because of her father's rejection, or her mother's teachings about beauty and attention being the true way to wealth and happiness, she not only needs the spotlight all the time, but perceives that she needs ANYTHING that anyone else might desire as well. So, she takes anything that Holly may want, including men.
It's easy to understand why Marina needs Holly, since she's such a Diva and always needs applause and attention, but why does Holly tolerate Marina? Is it because Marina offers some sense of adventure and wonder that her own bookish life fails to provide? Or is it, in her case, a true sense of kinship and the bond formed by lonliness?
These themes are all interesting, but it's subtext and not the crux of the film, which seriously meanders as it tells it's story of the two girls and those around them (particularly Mirina's older brother, who a young Holly has a crush on and later.... well, let's just say there's lot's going on).
I could have done without much of the period effects - too much of the disco scene - oh, look at the gay guy doing a fan dance - and other superflous scenes drawn simply to impart a sense of the era. I also found the drug party scene to be rather pointless, except to perhaps give an underpinning to the main charactors. Further scenes also left me underimpressed, though they gave me ample time to comtemplate the underlying stuff I've already discussed.
I also felt that the final scene where Holly has finally had enough of Marina's needs to be a bit melodramatic - not from Holly of course, but Marina's blathering soul sucking need and then her subsequent emotional breakdown... it just played slightly over the top and false.
But then the film redeems itself with a very nice closing scene 10 years later - the girls are back together, out in the backyard watching their own two children, both girls, cavorting about. Without saying anything the film say volumes as it freeze frames on the next generation. The meaning is evident, and the cycle of need continues.