Miranda July’s The Future, the follow-up to her successful 2005 film Me and You and Everyone We Know, may seem obnoxiously strange if you were to take some of its outlandish plot points out of context. The story features time-stopping, conversations with the moon, and a shirt that can move on its own. Oh, and the film is narrated by a cat waiting to be adopted. These fantastical elements are balanced by July’s skill to find humor in the mundane and ability to cleverly express a couple’s fear that their dreams are dead and their future has already been written. It’s not a comedy for everyone, but those who can appreciate July’s brand of offbeat humor will find The Future a rewarding experience.
Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) have been together for several years but their lives are starting to drift into an odd malaise. The couple decides to adopt Paw-Paw (the film’s narrator/symbol), a shelter cat, in a month after he’s healed up, and they see that as the beginning of the end for any dreams they may have had. As Jason notes, “35 is only five years from 40 and 40 is the new 50 and anything after that is just loose change.” “Loose change?” Sophie asks. “Yeah,” says Jason. “Not enough to get you anything you want.” Faced with the transition hurtling towards their relationship, Jason and Sophie resolve to follow their ambition for the next thirty days. Jason quits his job doing tech support and picks up door-to-door volunteer work trying to sell new trees to the people of Los Angeles. Sophie wants to do 30 different dances over the next 30 days and put them on YouTube as part of an art project.
There’s no real way for me to communicate July’s humor because it’s so different from every other comedic style that’s out there. It’s an odd mixture of deadpan, silliness, and detachment. The tone will certainly leave some people cold, but if you think her delivery of a line like, “I want to watch the news more but I’m so far behind…” is hilarious (as I do), then this may be the kind of movie for you. It’s also a tricky balancing act since July and Linklater have to create relatable characters who sometimes behave like space aliens. For instance, at one point in the movie, Sophie is talking to a man on the phone and they realize they’re both facing in the same direction. Sophie decides to shout out the window to see if the man lives nearby. That kind of behavior works within the tonal context of the picture, but some may find it too unbelievable to ever connect with anyone in the movie.
But what makes The Future a more fulfilling experience than July’s amusing idiosyncrasies is that the film effectively taps into our feelings about the momentum of our lives. The story positions Paw-Paw as a symbol of a future we’re afraid to reach out in grab because it’s not perfect but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth loving. July cleverly bends reality in order to make her observation that sometimes we want to keep everything frozen in time so we don’t have to face a scary future, but time will simply move on without us. I’m not exactly sure why a moon has to be a part of that conversation (perhaps because it represents time’s ebb and flow), but a talking, “floating rock in the sky” doesn’t seem out of placed in July’s beautifully bizarre movie.
The Future is a lovely little film that’s a creatively fulfilling step forward for July. Linklater holds his own against her delightful quirks and their relationship feels lived-in and real despite their quizzical worldview. The Future isn’t for everyone and I’m glad because that’s part of what makes it special.
For all of our coverage of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, click here. Also, here are links to all of my Sundance reviews so far:
- Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
- Benavides Born
- Bobby Fischer Against the World
- Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel
- The Details
- The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
- Higher Ground
- Hobo with a Shotgun
- How to Die in Oregon
- In a Better World
- The Interrupters
- The Lie
- Like Crazy
- Magic Trip
- Martha Marcy May Marlene
- The Music Never Stopped
- My Idiot Brother
- Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times
- Project Nim
- Red State
- Salvation Boulevard
- Take Shelter
- These Amazing Shadows
- Win Win