The Future

31 Aug

Title: The Future
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Miranda July
Writer: Miranda July
Starring: 
Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warhofsky
MPAA Rating: 
R, some sexual content
Runtime: 
91 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 
75%

 

Miranda July is a very polarizing figure. People seem to either totally revere and adore everything she does, or they seem to be unable to really embrace it. I fit in enthusiastically in the former group, I really love her stuff, her debut film, 2005’s Me You and Everyone We Know I ranked as my 23rd favorite film of that year, though I probably would give it an even higher spot if I redid my rankings now, and her short films and books and short stories are pretty damn amazing as well. So yeah, I was part of the bunch of people that was seriously looking forward to see The Future, and, much like it could have been expected, this is a film that will indeed polarize people’s opinions. Personally, I loved it, it had all those whimsical elements you can now expect from Ms. July and applied them to this awesome and rather dark exploration of life, and I thought it worked tremendously, but just like I loved it so intensely, I can also see rather easily how some people could find this whole film a bit too challenging an experience.

But you really do have to be open to this film to fully fall in love with it like I did. I mean, yes, the film is so wonderfully constructed and thoughtful and witty, but it’s also easy to see why the first part may be frustrating to some who will undoubtedly think it’s all too overrefined. But if you allow to really lose yourself and stop being to judgmental you’ll only feel yourself incredibly drawn to it, totally enchanted by its effect. This is a bittersweet film we have here, but one tinged with all of this quirky traits that make it stand out as something we haven’t really seen before. And the first quirky quality we find here is something that we first saw in another excellent film this year, which was coincidentally directed by Ms. July’s real-life boyfriend Mike Mills, and that film was the terrific Beginners, which featured narration by a dog. The Future offers an internal monologue by Paw Paw, the stray cat that rescueb by Sophie and Jason, a Los Angeles couple who found him with an injured paw.

The basic plot outline for The Future is that Jason, played by Hamish Linklater, and Sophie, played by Ms. July herself, agree to adopt Paw Paw. But they also worry that adopting this kitten, that agreeing to this small responsibility would take away their lives, would impede them from doing all sorts of great stuff they could maybe do. So during the month or so in which the kitten will be in a shelter getting better Sophie and Jason decide to truly embrace live, they quit their jobs they disconnect themselves from the stuff that had been grounding them and adopt an open approach to live, willing to embrace anything the universe might throw at them, to treat those 30 days until Paw Paw arrives to live with them as basically their 30 last days of life.

And that approach we would think would serve them well, because before that we saw Sophie and Jason were just a super passive couple, I mean, yes, they were sweet and seemed proper cool in a bohemian sort of way, but their approach to live was just really shy and calm. We see them sitting on the couch of their apartment, each with a laptop, looking more like kids trying to hold off adulthood than a real steady couple of adults well into their 30’s. She’s a dance instructor to young kids, he’s a stay-at-home employee who helps people over the phone with technical issues they might have, not necessarily the most ambitious twosome you can think of.

So then the turn they take with their approach to life you’d think would certainly alter things quite a bit, and while it’s true that Jason takes on a different approach that sees him paying extra attention to every little thing around him and talking to people he wouldn’t normally pay mind to, and even though Sophie takes a more active and ambitious approach to her art, and commits to filming 30 dances in those 30 days and posting them online, not really much changes in the end, no newfound sense of fulfillment comes from it, and as such they start drifting apart, he starts taking on different projects to try and feel something new, she embarks on an affair with another man.

So far this probably sounds like another quirky indie rom-com, though one that’s probably well-done if only because Ms. July’s in it, but maybe it doesn’t explain why I say The Future is something unlike anything we’ve really seen before in many ways. Because from this story about a couple in their bohemian apartment and the course of their relationship spawns a huge amount of scenes filled with magic realism. Scenes that are so gorgeous and well-made, and yet come out of nowhere, without any real explanation as to their nature, and yet because these characters already seem to be part of a dream world of sorts (and because there’s a cat providing narration) this movie treats them as the most logical next step for the film to take, and we’re quick to embrace them as such as well, and it works to the most sublime of levels.

I loved this film, I loved how Miranda July yet again crafted a very-near-perfect piece of work, one in which she has the luxury of embedding all of these magical elements into your typical Los Angeles day and yet it all feels totally in place and not weird at all, that’s not easy at all to do. And yes, it may all be a bit too whimsical for some, I get that, but for me it was just right, it has all of these lovely little moments to hold on to, which always fall just shy of being too cute because Ms. July is apparently an expert on administering just the right amounts of quirky, I loved how even though the film seemed totally ingenue it was still undeniably focussed at the same time.

Go see The Future, be open about it, and I promise you won’t regret it. Simply put it’s a story about people who want to feel love, but one that somehow manages to use time and space as malleable setpieces that it can change to illustrate what it wants, and that magical quality is what makes this film so powerful and utterly charming, if not a bit unsettling. The title of the film is also something that stands firmly in the two realities the film deals with, on the more metaphysical spectrum it it’s this abstract concept marked by the end of things, by death, but in the more ordinary sense it poses a question just as scary, which is: what is the next step for you in life?

Grade: A

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