DIR/WRI: Miranda July • PRO: Gina Kwon, Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul • DOP: Nikolai von Graevenitz • ED: Andrew Bird • DES: Elliott Hostetter • CAST: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky
The Future is Miranda July’s second feature since her award=winning debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know in 2005. July incorporates performance art, filmmaking and writing in her artistic repertoire and has been heralded as the queen of American art-house. The film tracks a month in the life of a couple in their mid-thirties, in their search for something more meaningful and profound in life. As a symbol of their commitment to each other they decide to get a cat. However, they realise that this will mean they will no longer have their freedom. With one month to go until the cat arrives into their home they attempt to change their lives for the better, while they still can. Jason (Hamish Linklater) quits his IT support job and decides to do something positive for the environment. Sophie (Miranda July) stops teaching dance and plans to create thirty dances in thirty days to upload on you tube. Of course, their plans do not come so easily to them, and anxiety, fear and inaction limit their success. Instead, their personal journeys lead them to happen upon other isolated people in their attempt to find something meaningful.
The character type of the lost, disillusioned adult is a familiar theme in contemporary cinema, heralded by Wes Anderson in films such as The Royal Tennenbaums and Woody Allen’s films before that. These characters need to strike a careful balance in order for the audience not to dismiss them as self indulgent and quirky for the sake of it. This has been done successfully and particularly well achieved by both Anderson and Allen but for a film to return to this type of character they need to be very carefully portrayed and interesting enough to hold our attention.
Sophie and Jason live together in their Los Angeles studio apartment and are riddled with anxiety and completely dependent on the internet. This is smartly satirised through some humorous observations – Sophie is frustrated by the receptionist’s dance routine as it reaches 10,000 hits on you tube (the only valid form of modern artistic expression). Sophie takes action against her distractions by disconnecting the internet giving them one hour to check what is ‘important’ to them – both Jason and Sophie are in a state of panic and then close their matching Mac laptops with a heavy sigh. However, these moments are outweighed by the sheer frustration of watching them over think every detail of their lives and indulge in their lack of direction. Sophie lays in bed under the covers in the dark after another day spent paralysed by fear, when Jason returns to the apartment she says she could hear in his footsteps that he was happy she was not there. As the film progressed I found myself becoming more frustrated and disinterested in their fate.
The story plays out in Miranda July’s surreal style of independent art house cinema. The film’s narrative meanders along punctuated by Paw-Paw the cat’s lonely musings narrated by July. This is an attempt to bring nuggets of wisdom from Paw-Paw to the story but it comes across as a little twee. In another scene, Jason speaks to the moon for advice and stops time at a breaking point in their relationship. The magic realism of this scene is enjoyable to watch and is where July’s skill as a film-maker comes to bear. It is not limited to an exploration of Jason’s inner thoughts but opens out to an exploration of time and the idea of fate. Another great moment is found in their action rather than inaction – Sophie finally completes a dance and she does so in the confines of her comfort blanket (a yellow t-shirt) which is mesmerising and fun.
The Future is telling us to look outside of ourselves; to reach out to people and to turn off the internet and do something important. There is an audience for this film who will revel in the surreal moments, and find empathy with the characters in their search for meaning – but for others the film’s message will be lost in its self-indulgence.
Soracha Pelan Ó Treasaigh
Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Future is released on 4th November 2011