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The Future (2011)

August 15, 2011

6/10 Hipster Meltdowns

Nice and different, but quirky to a fault.

The Future is about a 35-year-old couple who rescue a stray cat thinking it has a six months left to live and that they’ll start following their dreams when the cat kicks the bucket. But then the vet tells them that if they do a good job of caring for the cat, it could live up to five years, and the couple quickly begins to freak out. Rather than risk waiting until they’re 40, the couple decides to quit their jobs and immediately start doing whatever it is they’ve always wanted to do in the month before they can pick their cat up their healthy new cat. What starts out as an golden opportunity to discover their bliss eventually snowballs into the hardest test their relationship has ever faced.

It’s the sophomore effort by writer/director Miranda July, and if you’ve had the pleasure of watching her first movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know, you’ve probably already guessed that this movie takes a good long walk on the weird side. If the name’s not ringing any bells, Miranda July is a performance artist/film maker who made her first movie in 2003 which was really good, really out there, and more or less felt like a string of different performance pieces strung together by a slew of different interweaving sub-plots. Yup, she’s a funky gal, it was a funky movie, and The Future is no different in either regard.

But that’s a good thing. Even if I’m not exactly in love with the final product, it’s nice to have film makers I can count on to deliver something that’s completely unlike anything else. With that being said, I’m not sure what I was expecting to get out of this movie. From what I got out of the trailer, I knew that there would be a talking moon, a talking cat, and Miranda July doing her best Elaine Benes impression, and while all that is as odd as it sounds, that isn’t really what bugged me about this movie. Most of it worked, some of it was too much, but somehow it all came back to character development issues of all things.

The thing that rubbed me the wrong way about this script is the way July’s character, Sophie, starts making all these unprovoked decisions that jeopardize her relationship with her boyfriend, Jason, for reasons I still don’t really understand. On the one hand, the motivation behind Sophie and Jason’s life-altering month is to not ask questions, do what they want, and let the world around them decide the direction they should take their lives in. I can dig that, I think we’ve all had that urge every once in a while. On the other hand, Sophie and Jason have very different ways of acting on the encouragement of their surroundings, and Sophie’s is a lot harder to swallow.

If someone offers Jason a job on the street, he takes it even though he never would have during any other month of his life. Eventually, this leads him to the doorstep of a wise old man who may or may Jason’s future self and reassures Jason that, while his about to hit the fan, he and Sophie will get past it and live happily ever after. Now that part I loved and still think is borderline brilliant. But then we get to Sophie’s story that takes an abrupt turn towards infidelity and I’m still not really sure why that is since it came totally out of the blue for me. Apparently Sophie is unhappy in her relationship with Jason? Apparently Sophie’s idea of cutting loose is to get down with other dudes? I don’t know. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of giving anything more away, but of all the weird things that happen in this movie, this was by far the weirdest and the way it all gets wrapped up doesn’t exactly clarify why it all happened in the first place either.

Then again, this performance art. It’s not something I’m familiar with, and even if I was a fucking connoisseur of it, something tells me that this would have nonetheless thrown me for a loop. This is an experience you just have to go with, and while I probably shot myself in the foot by getting hung up on certain aspects ’cause I was expecting an explanation of sorts, those are the very qualities that make this stand out. And it does have a sense of humor, only it wasn’t one that had me laughing. Again, quirky to a fault.

But in other good news, Hamish Linklater is great as Jason and Miranda July really is the driving force behind this as Sophie. Never seen Linklater before, but he gets really raw here, delivers a mighty fine performance, and I hope this gets him some recognition.

Maybe I’m just not old enough and don’t have the life experience to get past everything that was so strange about The Future and truly appreciate these characters and what was going on their lives, but until I hit my 30s and can give this another go, I’m kind of bummed that a lot of what makes this movie special ended up being its own downfall for me. Not to say that I didn’t like this movie, it’s just that from where I’m at right now in my life, there’s an unfortunate disconnect since the one thing I can’t stop thinking about is Miranda July interpretive dancing while cocooned inside of an old T-shirt for five minutes rather than digging into what she’s trying to say.

If there’s anything I can say about The Future, it’s that as far as midlife crisis movies go, this one’s awfully unique. If Michel Gondry wolfed down a handful of magic mushrooms and then tried to remake American Beauty from a female perspective, it wouldn’t be too far off from The Future, and that alone is reason enough to check it out and come to your own conclusions. It’s a movie that marches to the beat of its drum, it’s an interesting take on getting older by the minute and still not knowing what it is you want out of life, and while it I wish I had “got” more of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was in the proud minority on that one.

Good soundtrack, too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. HermioneO permalink
    August 15, 2011 6:00 pm

    But … what happened to the cat?

    • August 26, 2011 4:32 pm

      Haha. Gonna have to watch this funky piece for yourself to find out.

  2. November 22, 2011 5:04 am

    Miranda July. she won the Golden Camera in Cannes with her debut (You and I and all others, 2005) and also won an award at Sundance for her “original vision.” The film was not much, but his kindness and good work of its cast made it seem fresh. Nor was coldly conceived much but who cares, if for no creaking viewing over and offered good times. The problem is that “she” must have believed she had achieved a solid fusion of ‘magical realism’ and codes of the American independent film post-Sundance and decided to go further with her new job, and it turns out “The Future” is not so thing. Six years after that dangerously winning film, now comes with a proposal of an original idea and spoils a naive tone between the ridiculous and embarrassing. Sorry for “her.”

    Cat: Paw Paw. It was abandoned by his ‘family’ and left in a welcome haven in which if not achieved for animal owners, they are slaughtered. Paw Paw is adopted by the protagonists but a broken leg prevents him from going home at the time, so I have to wait. In the process we hear his thoughts on individual scenes. A talking cat who says things more intelligent than their human owners. The problem is that these scenes are so arbitrary that might not be, and the movie would be just as jets. Put another way: it adds nothing. It is a shame because it could have been the hallmark of a film without any distinction.

    And everything else: Marriage between two rare types who love life and see the world as if they had escaped from “Candy Candy”. The fact of taking the cat makes them see things differently and this results in insecurities. He seeks a new job. She leaves him and in solitude, is a contradictory feeling that leads to a third person. All very indie. The problem is that … raises many more. The film wants to be so distinctive that fails to border the ridiculous falls squarely on him. And even is natural, but it seems fascia, it’s just a pose that can not even take a joke, as in (eg) “Precious” by Lee Daniels. Here the only result is to create indifference. Conclusion: movie with talking cat does not work. Unheard of. Ah yes, how much damage “Amélie”! (And Sundance). has been done


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