Featured Critic; St. Louis, MO
In 1992, Leonard Cohen saw The Future, and it was murder. Today, almost twenty years later, we can partake in Miranda July's vision of The Future, and see that while Cohen certainly wasn't wrong, the days to come aren't just about struggle and human toil, but are also overflowing with possibilities. For July, these possibilities shine in the pure and childlike whimsy in which she presents her story. Perhaps the biggest, most immediate offbeat surprise of "The Future" is that it takes place in the present day.
The words "offbeat" and "quirky" may be overused these days, but they might as well have been invented for July, a career performance artist making her second foray into feature filmmaking, following 2005's "Me and You and Everyone We Know". (Why is it so often the case that when writing positively about a film, the level of cliché parallels the film's levels of unusualness?) Granted, July's latest film often wears its quirkiness on its shoulders, but it does so in an unassuming and upfront manner. Either you're on board, or you're not. I most certainly was on board, as I found "The Future" to be one of the most satisfying cinematic trips this year.

The film, doing more in ninety minutes than many others do in 120, tells the humble yet extraordinary story of a low-income L.A. white couple in their mid-thirties. He does computer tech support from home, she teaches children's dance classes. Their apartment is an untidy dump. And, they possess super human powers of the mind. (At least they tell each other they do.) Upon learning that the wounded cat they're planning to adopt cannot come home for another month, decide to live that month to the fullest. And by that, they mean to live spontaneously, to feel "alive", for perhaps the last time in their lives. (The logic being that once the high-maintenance cat is home with them - and someone always has to be home with it - that period will last five years, making them forty years old. "And once you're forty, you might as well be fifty. And anything past fifty is "pocket change" - not enough to do anything with.") Except, this dream of spontaneity manifests itself not in the form of carefree "Jules and Jim" style footraces and whatnot, but in meandering days and idle hands.

The narrative alternates between the couple, Sophie (played by July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), with the cat (voiced by July) picking up any expository slack, such as it is. Jason and Sophie's intended final month of free living becomes a series of regretful decisions and half-baked impulses. The choices they make may be hurtful, but the revelations, vague they may be, are worthy. July's views of the mysteries of life, on full puzzle-like display, are complex and sometimes troubling, but they are also gleefully strange and delightfully unexplained.

Honest and compact, yet refreshingly surprising, "The Future" is for fans of the absurd and silly, the poignant and pure, the oblique and provocative. Like all great art, it is all about asking questions, and definitely not giving answers, even as observations on life, love and human condition are fair game. She made the movie, we get to do the heavy lifting; but in this case the lifting won't seem so heavy. It's more like irresistible untangling. And with a film like this one, the untangling can go on for years and years of repeat viewings, each time more rewarding and enjoyable than the last.

July's mystery mix of a film takes us places and shows us things without ever leaving the confines overshot Los Angeles. Wacky dances, crawling t-shirts, bizarre exchanges, fractured time, talking cats, possible aged doppelgangers, and hilarious throwaway lines are what we get in place of the usual worn-out dramatic movie arguments, coffee shop scenes, soul-sucking cubicles, and tidy resolution. We're shown that life, as we each long for elusive belonging and purpose, is full of things that, sometimes amusingly, sometimes frustratingly, and sometimes both, cannot be explained or understood. But it's all headed towards One Big Inevitable Something Or Other. Something big, just around the corner or years away; and whether it's doomsday, nirvana, or just closing credits, we cannot know or say. But it will be wonderful and terrible. Or, as Leonard Cohen sings in his great song "The Future" (itself also a morbidly eccentric portrait of hope amid the overwhelming drudgery of life):

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul

"The Future", whatever you make of it, is not to be missed.

- Jim Tudor

The Future

  • Miranda July
  • Miranda July
  • Hamish Linklater
  • Miranda July
  • David Warshofsky
  • Isabella Acres
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Miranda JulyHamish LinklaterDavid WarshofskyIsabella AcresComedyDramaRomance

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