From Brazil, the land that brought us Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, comes Me, You, Them, an earthy comedy that ups the ante from bigamy to trigamy. Set in the dusty northeastern region of Brazil known as the sertÃo, Me, You, Them stars Regina CasÃ as Darlene, a woman who, with her wide hips and broad, toothy smile, radiates a kind of peasant carnality. When the movie opens, Darlene, who's vastly pregnant, has just been left at the altar by what would have been her first husband. No problem. She hooks up with the somewhat elderly, decidedly cranky Osias (Lima Duarte), which puts a roof over her head. Then, a couple of years later, Osias' somewhat elderly, decidedly kind brother-in-law, Zezinho (StÃnio Garcia), moves in, and before you know it he and Darlene are meeting down by the river. Then, a couple of years after that, a hunky field hand gets added to the mix. If two's company and three's not a crowd, four seems about right to Darlene, who juggles her various duties with aplomb.
However unlikely this all seems, it was inspired by a real-life Darlene whom director Andrucha Waddington heard about on television. And what he and scriptwriter Elena SoÃrez have done is come up with their own explanation for how a woman might find herself in this situation. Me, You, Them feels like a folk tale, with its burnished photography and its overall lack of drama. But it also seems strangely plausible, if only because Waddington simply allows the story to unfold, one day at a time. The real Darlene's husbands, when asked why they were willing to put up with such an arrangement, said that, all in all, they'd rather share her than lose her. That's a factor in the movie as well, but there's also a mythical dimension, thanks in part to Gilberto Gil's fanciful score. CasÃ's Darlene, who pops out a child for each of the men in her life, is a kind of Earth Goddess ' sexy, horny, fecund. She's not just a woman, she's Woman. And CasÃ, who's like a kinder, gentler Anna Magnani, has a way of inspiring awe.
So do the images in Me, You, Them ' sun-baked landscapes that, thanks to Breno Silveira's golden-hued cinematography, take the edge off all that rural poverty. The movie's a fantasy, no doubt about that, but a man's fantasy or a woman's? We don't really get to know Darlene very well; she's an enigma to us, too. But we get to know her "husbands" (she's only legally married to Osias) even less. They're stereotypes who seem to represent the various things a man can bring to a marriage. Osias puts that roof over Darlene's head. Zezinho gives her love and affection. And the field hand? Let's just say he knows how to work with his hands, not to mention other parts of his anatomy. Those who might squawk at Darlene's having to cook, clean and otherwise tend to not one, not two, but three husbands might also draw some comfort from the notion that it takes not one, not two, but three men to add up to one husband for this insatiable force of nature. If only in our dreams, Darlene has the upper hand.