Is there such a thing as sincerely calculated naiveté? Or put another way, does Miranda July have any idea how annoying she is?
Judging by The Future, writer/filmmaker/performance artist July's second feature, I'd guess she must. A fabricator of her own screen image, July -- the high priestess of quirk -- is an unabashed cutie-pie, seemingly determined to play the eternally precocious ingénue. At the same time, The Future hints at a degree of ironic self-awareness on the part of the 37-year-old artist otherwise unmatched.
One minute into The Future, an arch, scratchy little voice attributed to
Paw Paw the cat, but unmistakably belonging to the filmmaker, poses the
question, "Have you ever been outside?" Seldom have I felt so directly
addressed. The urge to bolt the screening room was overwhelming.
Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (July), are a somewhat depressed,
marginally droll, eminently swattable couple of early 30-somethings.
They tiff and riff around their L.A. apartment, feasting on minor
misunderstandings and imagining their dotage. A wide-eyed space child
with a pale, pre-Raphaelite quality, Sophie teaches modern dance to
This wistful, tentative, somewhat wilted flower is not without her
mystery: Is she an intentionally comic character? Is her morning
salutation ("Hi, person") meant to be charming? Jason, who does
computer-tech support from home, has a bird's-nest hairdo and an even
more frightened look on his face. More than symbiotic, they're virtual
twins who have resolved to change their life together by adopting a
cat -- in fact, a problem cat with a questionable future.
The Future is transparently a movie about having a child, as well as
about being one. Thwarted in her dance-a-day project, Sophie awkwardly
seduces a 50-ish single dad. Marshall (David Warshofsky) is even
clumsier than Jason and no less dull, but at least he's a "man," with a
home in the Valley and a 6-year-old daughter named Gabriella.
The movie's final act is complicated by a metaphoric toy chest of new-age tropes, as well as sundry parallel worlds, alternate lives, and
second personalities. July is something of a magician, and somewhere
amid the inability to stop time, the finality of unborn children, the
failure to protect posterity, the end of romantic love, the limitations
of memory, the routine of carelessness, and the futility of
expectations, Sophie's (or is it July's?) coy narcissism becomes a
criticism of itself, and her "sadness" turns into something truly sad.
In short, I have seen The Future and it's heartbreaking.
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