Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lydia's Review of The Future

Miranda July completely won me over with her charming and absorbing debut feature Me and You and Everyone We Know. As writer, director, actor and performance artist extraordinaire, July brings a fresh voice to the film industry, telling stories the way she wants them to be told. After winning the Camera D’Or at Cannes and the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, it is no surprise that her follow-up feature was met with high expectation and much anticipation — from myself included.

July capitalizes on the success of her first film by taking a few more risks in The Future. She pushes things that much further, injecting even more of her zany style. Although I appreciate July’s attempt to communicate with the audience in a different way, it all ran a little thin for me. There was just not enough substance to back it up. I tried, I really tried but, in the end, I didn’t love this film.

The Future started off strong for me — minus the opening voice-over narration from a talking cat. The series of images under the opening credits were simple yet striking and worked well to establish Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason’s (Hamish Linklater) hipster LA apartment. We cut to a funny and endearing scene where we meet our two protagonists sharing a couch, staring into their respective laptops. We are thrown right into the relationship of this thirty-five year old, unmarried, childless yet relatively content couple. July lets us indulge in their playful banter as Jason tries to convince Sophie that he has the ability to stop time. For me, this is what Miranda July does best. Her witty writing about human connections is so often quietly poignant and deeply resonant.

The Future is built on a promising premise — Sophie and Jason have 30 days of freedom left before adopting a stray cat named Paw Paw and devoting their lives to her care. As a result, panic ensues and both Sophie and Jason are left re-evaluating their lives and taking drastic measures to make something of themselves. Sophie begins an awkward affair with a suburban single dad from Tarzana and Jason becomes an overnight environmentalist in the name of global warming. This is when the film starts to unravel.

All of the plot elements are set up but there doesn’t seem to be enough writing to support them. Once new relationships are established, they stagnate; the scenes become somewhat repetitive and the characters don’t evolve as much as I want them to. Despite the fact that The Future has about half the characters as Me and You and Everyone We Know, I don’t feel like I know any more about them or am any more invested in their struggles. Too much time is spent on surrealist, quirky elements that fail to add to my understanding or appreciation of the story. Watching an oversized t-shirt crawl along a suburban street is out of place and unnecessary.

The one surreal moment that worked to enhance the dramatic climax of the scene is when Sophie is about to confess her affair. Jason uses his ability to stop time in an attempt to save himself from the crushing turn their relationship is about to take. Hamish Linklater’s quiet devastation is absolutely heartbreaking. The darkness, silence and stillness of that moment carry a tragic weight that is unparalleled in the rest of the film. However, instead of letting it stand on its own, July takes away from this moving scene by introducing a talking moon and sending Jason on a mission into the streets of LA to re-start time. I commend Miranda July for trying to push The Future further than her last film. However, I almost feel as though she was trying too hard. It was the simple, understated scenes between Sophie and Jason that were by far the most captivating. Two talented actors and great writing, you don’t need anything more than that.

All of this to say that there is a lot of heart in The Future. I think that goes without saying for any filmmaker who invests the energy to write, direct and act in a relatively low budget project. Regardless of what you think of her films, Miranda July is out there getting them made. That, to me, is truly inspiring. Plain and simple.

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