Directed by: Miranda July
Starring: Hamish Linklater, Miranda July, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres, Joe Putterlik
As someone who liked Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), I was genuinely looking forward to her new film, The Future. I had also liked the trailer a good bit. And then there was the film itself, which turns this review into one of the oddest and most difficult things I’ve ever written. You see, here’s the thing: I think the film is generally clever and creative. I cannot fault it much on that score. I also think it is well made. I have no choice in my own mind, but to recommend the film (with a couple of reservations). At the same time, I have to admit that I personally disliked the film intensely. But beyond that, I also have to confess that I have been completely unable to get the film out of my mind. This makes me think July did something right.
The film is about a pair of incredibly shallow characters—Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater)—on the heading-to-40 side of their mid-30s. As presented, they have no actual interests, talents or ambition, but they do have a sense of entitlement—that they thought they’d (apparently by magic) be more than they are. This disatisfaction comes to a head when they agree that it’s time to take on some responsibility. Their idea of responsibility is to commit to adopting a stray cat from an animal shelter. They’ve chosen this cat—named Paw-Paw—because it’s only expected to live six months. They can scarcely conceal their horror when they’re told that if that cat bonds with them, it might live for five years.
Panic sets in with the impending loss of their freedom, and they opt to use the 30 days they must wait to take possession of Paw-Paw to quit their jobs and realize their extremely tenuous dreams. In Sophie’s case, this is to create 30 dances for YouTube videos in 30 days. Despite the fact that she taught dance—to very young children—she seems to have no particular aptitude for this. Jason, on the other hand, is less focused, and decides to join an ecology group as a door-to-door tree salesman. It’s not that he’s into this cause or is any good at the presumably nonpaying position, he just does this on a whim. Things do not go as planned, which anyone could have predicted from the onset.
All of this is narrated by Paw-Paw (mostly seen as hand-puppet feet and voiced by July) from the cage at the animal shelter, talking about how Jason and Sophie said they were coming to fetch him/her (the gender isn’t clear), about how he couldn’t help himself from making “that sound” when they touched him, fantasizing about how life is about to begin, and wondering how long 30 days is. And here is the central problem I have with the film—Paw-Paw is the most likable (maybe the only likable) character in the film.
The rest of the film—and a lot of it works—concerns Jason and Sophie and their increasingly half-hearted attempts at fulfilling themselves. Their basic combination of self-absorption and defeatist mentality thwart them at every turn. Sophie, in fact, drifts into an affair with an older man (David Warshofsky, Unstoppable) whose number she finds on the back of a drawing they got at the shelter. Ultimately, she moves in with him and his odd daughter (Isabella Acres, TV’s Better Off Ted), who has an inexplicable desire to be buried up to her neck in the yard. (Don’t ask, because it’s never really addressed.) This may or may not be part of the “magical realism” the film drifts into. Much more successful in this realm is Jason’s discovery that he has the ability to stop time—something he does to keep Sophie from telling him she’s having an affair. But there’s a catch to this, which I’ll leave to the movie.
Yes, it’s creative and well done, but it finally left a bitter taste and I found it utterly depressing. Let me put it this way, if July wanted me to end up wanting to grab the two main characters by their shirt fronts and pimp-slap them till their moppet-like curly hair went straight, then she succeeded beautifully. I honestly cannot recall a film that caused such a violent, visceral response in me—nor one I have been so unable to shake. So I’m recommending the film with a warning that it’s just not a pleasant experience. At least it wasn’t for me. Rated R for some sexual content.