Monday, September 5, 2011


"The Future" (2011)

Miranda July's "The Future" opens with a dopey couple planning to adopt a sick cat; it then eloquently evolves into a meditation on loneliness and mortality. The cat in question, named Paw-Paw, is precious and has a broken leg. We see only his little paws, one in a cast, during occasional monologues from the cat -- yes, the cat -- which is voiced by writer, director and star Miranda July. Much like her striking debut, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" (2005), July crafts a unique and bold cinematic vision. She's no doubt polarizing in her construction of wonderment; that is, whether people are willing to open up to such free-flowing form and deadpan whimsy. But in taking the time to settle in, you'll experience one of the most original voices in American film today.

After learning that Paw-Paw can't come home with them for another month, Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) begin to panic. Sophie is a dancer but teaches dance for young kids while Jason wanted to be a world leader of some sort, but he supplies over-the-phone technical support instead. They've been spending their four years together loafing around a haphazardly furnished apartment going nowhere and getting used to each other's eccentricities. They figure since they're already in their mid-30s and the cat living up to five years in their care would take them into their 40s, they only have one month until their lives theoretically end. Time for drastic change. As a bohemian hipster couple, they are frustrating in their drift of a lifestyle. And as much as you want to shake them back into reality, the movie does it for us as we watch them lead themselves to their own undoing.

Jason decides on a whim to volunteer for an environmental organization going door-to-door selling trees. Meanwhile Sophie quits teaching dance and comes up with the concept of uploading 30 dances to Youtube over 30 days to receive Internet exposure. Does either of them follow through with their plan? No. Instead Sophie has an affair with a man named Marshall (David Warshofsky) while Jason starts to hang out with an old man named Joe (Joe Putterlik). The purpose of these side distractions is unclear. Perhaps just for the sake of Sophie being able to have an affair, and perhaps just for the sake of Jason meeting someone even more eccentric than him. The couple's relationship is at a crossroads, but it's hard to say if they even notice. They're too busy in their state of malaise waiting for something to happen, much like Paw-Paw anxiously waiting at the adoption center for a comfortable place to die. There lies July's profound knack for conveying difficult emotion -- here, the hope and pain of just waiting.

I would even go as far as to call it enchanting, especially in the way July blends the fantastical and supernatural with the everyday. There's a talking moon, a yellow security T-shirt that moves on its own and a young girl who likes to be buried in dirt. With all the cuteness there's a strange and unsettling mood that lingers giving hints to July's unnerving outlook on the cycle of life. It's all there in the title, "The Future," whether that refers to what someone plans on doing down the line or a more dauntingly abstract thought about the end of time itself. Jason even attempts to literally freeze time to avoid what's coming next revealing that, try as you might to ignore it, the world keeps spinning and life will go on with or without you.

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