Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Future

I can't really tell what it is about Miranda July, that strange, ebullient writer\director\actress\performance artist creature.  She's by turns irritating and strangely alluring, full of depth and soul and almost passively empty at the same time.  Perhaps that's the appeal-- there's such a sense of free associative, almost blank expressiveness to her work, that it solely depends on one's personal perspective on what exactly it means.  And perhaps it means not much at all and she's just a flaky, arty hipster playing us for fools with her holier-than-thou preciousness.  Six years ago, her debut feature- Me & You & Everyone We Know- struck a small nerve on the arthouse crowd, not that the film, a small blip of modern connectivity and coupling was anything revolutionary, but it felt that it came from a strange and unique new voice that was quiet (perhaps too quiet), slightly witty, but sown together by its own awkward quirkiness.  Her follow-up, The Future, is even loopier oddball film centering around a couple who decide to adopt a cat.

July plays Sophie, a dancer instructor for small children-- a quiet, slightly pixie-ish gal who dreams of creating a new dancer every day for a month and post it on YouTube.  Her boyfriend is named Jason (Hamish Linklater of The New Adventures of Old Christine fame), a stay-at-home tech support guy.  Together they leave in bohemian paradise (or hell, depending on one's eyes) in a small Los Angeles apartment.  They decide to adopt a cat, but there's a catch-- the cat named Paw Paw (who actually narrates the feature, with a flighty\annoying\cherubic cadence provided by July) is a hobbled mess and needs a month of hospitalization before it's ready to be taken home; if Sophie and Jason decide not to take the cat, he will be euthanized.  Our weirdo couple come to the conclusion that they've got one month left of freedom.  Perhaps seen as a metaphor for child rearing, or mortality, or really, who the hell knows.  Both quit their jobs-- she focuses on her YouTube dance missions (a hard one, considering they decide to give on Internet for that month, resulting in an amusing last minute Google-ing session), he decides to become a door-to-door solicitor for a Greenpeace-like environmental group.  The difficulty with The Future, at least in my eyes, is that for a feature so alien and often times so preciously irritating, for nearly every frame it held up my interest, kept me alert and in it's own strange, flaky way, it's sort of life-affirming and slightly heartbreaking.

July seems to stand in for a generation of artists post-Warhol, post-Dadaism, where irony is truth, and sentiment is merely inconsequential.  Yet there's seems like there's some emotional truth in the relationship between Sophie and Jason, even though they talk very little-- there's a small, melancholic speck of boho kismet, and the twee, cutesy dialogue and subtle, perhaps meant to be humorous, perhaps not, slight gags that in their odd, flaky way feel genuine lived in.  That being said, this is a very strange movie-- feline narration aside, the third act ventures into nearly science fiction terrain (featuring a talking moon no less), not to mention some of July's dances, which can only be described as bizarre.  I think, if nothing else, it's a credit that the film (at a brisk ninety minutes, though at times it feels twice that) that it's, more often than not, an interesting, well made oddity made with abundant heart; what it all means, I'm not sure.  B+

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