Title: The Future
Writer-director: Miranda July
Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres, Joe Putterlik
Modern film — especially American film — typically aims (and basically entirely exists) to pull certain emotional or experiential levers, to elicit feelings. So when one views a movie where it isn’t immediately clear (and maybe not even by its end) what the hell it wants from an audience, what sort of emotional reaction or sentimental connection it wishes to provoke, it can be a bracing and somewhat bewildering experience. That’s certainly the case, in mostly the best sense of that description, with multi-hyphenate Miranda July’s sophomore effort, The Future. Her follow-up to the arresting Me And You And Everyone We Know, The Future is a kind of whimsical, bittersweet rumination on adult anxiety and even mortality, taking big ideas and filtering them through July’s one-of-a-kind perspective.
The writer-director-actress stars as Sophie, who shares a small apartment in the Los Angeles enclave of Silverlake with her longtime boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater). With the weight of their thirties pushing down on each of them, the pair feels a special panic triggered by knowing that they have one month left until they’ve committed to adopt a sick, stray cat that will require around-the-clock care. Using this looming loss of freedom as an excuse, they each quit their dead-end day jobs, disconnect from the Internet, and try to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
For Jason, this means enlisting in an environmental sign-up campaign, and eventually befriending an old codger. Sophie, meanwhile, finds herself artistically paralyzed and unable to complete the dance-a-day YouTube project she wanted to do, so she drifts toward a potential infidelity with a middle-aged man (David Warshofsky) who makes promotional signs for a living. All of this is occasionally narrated in a sort of naive yet omnipresent fashion by the aforementioned cat, Paw Paw (plaintively voiced by July). And that’s not even mentioning the fact that when Jason learns of Sophie’s wandering eye, he tries to forestall her admission to him by literally freezing time.
If it sounds weird… well, it is. But rather wonderfully so. Unfolding as a mixture of magical realism and quasi-Dadaist sentiments, The Future creates its own distinct world, one where its character’s actions are always at least plausibly motivated, if sometimes shockingly grand and larger-than-life. Her methodology is decidedly precocious, and thus will be off-putting to some, who lean more heartily toward literalism in cinema. And truth be told, it would be interesting to see a more dynamic technical filmmaker shoot the same script, inclusive of its concepts and set-up.
But July’s aim is clearly to provoke parallel lines of thought and thematic engagement, as much as tell a simple A-to-B story about her characters. What immeasurably aids her in this endeavor is her varied background and experience as a stage performance artist, musician, poet and author. Able to bring all these different disciplines to bear, July crafts a convincing sort of cinematic diorama — intimate and self-contained, but tantalizingly hinting at and representative of a larger world.
Written by: Brent Simon