Queen of quirk Miranda July follows up her stunning 2005 debut Me and You and Everyone We Know with The Future, an absurdist and affecting portrait of a thirtysomething couple of under-achievers, Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) as they come to terms with time, age and, well, their future together. With a talking cat, a moon that gives sound advice and Jason’s ability to freeze time, there’s no doubt that The Future is a strange sight to behold and might not be the average viewer’s cup of tea. But writer-director July doesn’t allow the visual eccentricities of the movie to overshadow the emotion of the narrative, making the slightly flawed The Future a refreshing, poignant take on an old story.
Sophie and Jason are an endearing hipster couple living in a Los Angeles apartment cramped with random, childish trinkets and thrift store furniture. They’re definitely soul mates, but they’re more like best friends and roommates than romantic partners. (They even look alike, but that could just be their near-identical curly mops of dark hair.) Sophie, who isn’t much of a dancer herself, teaches a kids’ dance class, and Jason takes tech support calls at home from the couch. They decide to adopt a cat that needs 24/7 care and expect the cat to live at most a few months. But when they find out that the cat could live for up to five more years, Sophie and Jason make a vow to accomplish everything they've been putting on hold in the their lives within the thirty days before the cat’s arrival. They quit their jobs and disconnect the Internet. Sophie makes dance videos. Jason goes green.
Over the course of the thirty day period, Sophie and Jason see and do things that test their devotion to each other. Jason encounters an elderly man whose house is filled with the same knickknacks as his and Sophie’s apartment, allowing Jason to see (and fear) an older version of himself. Sophie takes up an affair with an older, wealthier, single father in a huge suburban residence, not because she doesn’t love Jason, but because living the life of a housewife is something she thought she would have done already.
Of the two leads, Linklater, best known for his role on the recently canceled sitcom The Old Adventures of New Christine, is the standout. He’s effortlessly likeable, and manages to be awkward while also heartbreaking. July definitely put more effort into her work behind the camera than in front of it; as Sophie, she appears to be taking her artsy oddball image very seriously with a despondent, monotone voice and blank wide-eyed stare.
From the film’s opening scene, we already know we’re in for a bizarre visual experience. The opening monologue is not by Sophie or Jason, but by their soon to be adopted cat, Paw Paw, also voiced with a scratchy squeak by July. Audiences might initially scoff at Paw Paw’s sporadic moments of narration, but by the film’s conclusion, Paw Paw becomes the film’s emotional core, as the cat is truly the symbol of Sophie and Jason’s future. Plus, the cat’s monologues, which are at times both funny and tragic, are so well written that they’re hard not to find appealing. There’s also a scene in which Jason literally stops time, as he realizes that the end of his relationship with Sophie is imminent upon her confession of her affair. The unconventional and fantastical execution of this scene of the moments before a breakup is an excellent decision by July, who successfully blends her whimsical filmmaking style with the devastating end of a relationship seen in movie after movie. This is certainly one of the most effective breakup scenes on film in recent memory, and we don’t even see the actual breakup.
While some elements of the film prove to be quite powerful, there are definitely other quirks in which July just slightly crosses the line into mere nuttiness. In one scene, Sophie’s beloved oversized t-shirt literally crawls into the bedroom of her rich boyfriend, an occurrence that represents Sophie’s formerly humble life creeping into her new life in the suburbs. This scene is excessively metaphorical, and is also an example of July’s biggest flaw as a filmmaker. As viewers, we are constantly hit over the head with July’s quasi-profound life commentary. She is constantly forcing her audience to think, which at times gets to be too much. This method worked to a beautiful degree in Me and You, but July just has a little too much to say at times in The Future.
If Me and You was about people’s fear of ending up alone, The Future is about the exact opposite; it confronts the fear of being and staying together forever – in an inspired and original way. It might not be everyone’s taste, but whether or not you've already Jumped on the July boat, The Future is absolutely a must-see.
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