The real make-or-break point for The Future comes early
Published: December 14, 2011
Roadside Attractions DVD
The real make-or-break point for writer/director Miranda July’s The Future comes early, when you must buy the idea that Sophie (July) and her boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater) would, in the process of adopting a sick cat, decide to change their lives completely overnight. But to get to that, you have to get past the cat itself. July herself performs Paw-Paw as a pair of disembodied furry front limbs seen in a newspaper-lined shelter cage; her rendition of the cat’s tiny, scratchy voice speaks before the film begins in earnest. It is the kind of thing that sets eyes rolling among many viewers with its quirkiness, its potential for preciousness. But like so many things in July’s work, Paw-Paw as a device, as a character, is uncanny, surprising, deft, and smart on several levels. Just like The Future as a whole.
With their matching frowsy mops of hair and laptops and dry senses of humor, Sophie and Jason seem meant for each other. But they aren’t slacker kids anymore; as they hit their mid-30s, teaching dance to little kids instead of dancing (Sophie) and doing tech support from home (Jason) perhaps feel a little less temporary. They decide to pass their 30-day wait to bring Paw-Paw home by making their lives feel like they matter a little more. No jobs, no internet—she’ll choreograph, and he’ll do something that makes a difference. Cut off from their usual distractions, they—especially Sophie—find new ones, like a random middle-aged suburban stranger named Marshall (David Warshofsky).
Paw-Paw isn’t the only stretch here—Jason jokes about his ability to stop time, and then he does it. And the moon talks to him in the voice of an old man. But The Future is an intimate drama as well as a quirkfest. July captures the frustration of finding yourself in an ordinary life, and for all the film’s magic realism, the relationships feel real, from Marshall and Sophie’s surprisingly visceral mutual seduction to Jason’s hurt in the aftermath. And then there are the moments that feel both real and unreal, as when Sophie folds herself up inside an oversized yellow T-shirt and does what can only be described as a dance/catharsis. Indeed, The Future feels intuitive as much as thought out, yet its rendering of Sophie’s and Jason’s emotional states—and its oblique look at the state of their relationship—is hard-earned and perfectly captured.
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