With The Future, Miranda July Is a Magician of Heartbreak

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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