Miranda July, writer/director/star of The Future, tends to be polarizing. Here at Shooting the Script, we count ourselves as fans. Adam put her first film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, number one on his best of the decade list. It also made my top ten the year it was released. And so far we’ve enjoyed everything else July has produced: short films, short stories, art projects, etc. So, I’d like to say if you like July, you’ll like The Future, but I can’t this time. And if you can’t stand July, you will more than likely hate this movie. And if you are unfamiliar with July, I recommend you start with her first film instead.
The Future concerns itself with live-in couple, Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater). They each tolerate their no hassle jobs and their relationship, and are typically glued to their laptops. When they are suddenly faced with the mild commitment of caring for a stray cat, Paw Paw, the fear of “parenthood” or anything requiring some semblance of maturity, they react poorly. Jobs are abandoned, big plans are made and quickly derailed, then the movie settles into the same static funk as the characters.
Paw Paw narrates the film, complete with some nifty puppet cat legs. Jason stops time with his mind and talks to the moon. Sophie’s security blanket, which is actually a t-shirt, stalks her. And all of this is sometimes dismissed as twee or pretentious or just plain annoying. It’s what the July haters seem to really hate about her work. However, it’s what I like most about The Future.
Frankly, I wanted more of the surreal leaps, more magical moments like the bewitching t-shirt dance. The elements translated from her performance art are what made July’s first film so unique and engaging. Her other projects are reminiscent of an Animal Collective music video, but with characters and a real story.
The Future has the characters, but really falls short in the story department. For all the tricks and quirk, nothing really happens. I don’t mean “nothing” like this is more of a contemplative talky picture. And I don’t mean “nothing” like the camera lingers on a sunrise for 10 minutes (that film does exist, BTW). The film is a drain, like dinner with an old couple who can’t stand each other. Slow, meandering, and in the end, I’d have rather been eating alone.
Do you remember the scene in Buffalo ’66 when Vincent Gallo is in the photo booth trying to capture the right moment? He keeps saying he wants to “span time.” That’s what some people might describe as “nothing happening” in a movie. But that scene is hilarious and tells you a lot about the characters. The Future is more like what Gallo’s character was trying to manufacture; it spans time without going anywhere.