Native Californian Gwyneth Paltrow did one quite convincingly in "Emma" and "Shakespeare in Love." Texan Renee Zellweger did one in "Bridget Jones's Diary." So the idea of American actress Michelle Williams attempting a British accent in "Me Without You" doesn't seem implausible. In fact, Williams is convincing as a Brit, right down to the subtle accent she winds up favoring.

Ultimately, what fails her in "Me Without You" — and what fails the entire cast, for that matter — is the material.

This friendship-through-the-years drama attempts, unsuccessfully, to combine the touchy-feely drama of "Beaches" with the skepticism and fatalism of "The Virgin Suicides." But that tonal ping-ponging sinks the film and nearly overshadows what is a fairly strong lead performance by Williams, a former "Dawson's Creek" co-star.

She stars as Holly, who is alternating between love and hate for her best friend, the spoiled Marina (Anna Friels). The film chronicles their many ups and downs, most of which are witnessed through Holly's eyes.

Though each has personal demons (Holly's insecurity regarding her attractiveness, Marina's drug dependency), their relationships with men are what really threatens to undo their friendship.

Their sparring even extends to a competition for the affections if their handsome American professor (Kyle MacLachlan). And Holly's obvious crush on Nat (Oliver Milburn), Marina's older brother, doesn't help matters.

As watchable as the film is

throughout its first half, the plotting becomes more and more like a soap opera, and neither character is all that interesting. Co-screenwriter/director Sandra Goldbacher's pacing also seems a bit off (the second half of the film really drags).

Still, Williams and Friel, an English stage and television actress, do their best to make their characters' friendship seem believable, though the performance by the former is stronger, more assured and less of clichd.

"Me Without You" is rated R for occasional use of strong sex- related profanity, female nudity, simulated sex, simulated drug use (marijuana, cocaine and heroin) and use of some crude sexual slang terms and vulgar sex talk. Running time: 107 minutes.