Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is When?

The Future(2011)
Directed By Miranda July
Miranda July has a very singular cinematic style that most people dismiss away as twee or cloying, which to me is a very superficial dismissal, because it gets no deeper than her characters softly eccentric clothing and homemade art projects, and ignores the complex webs of relationships she created in "Me, And You, And Everyone We Know" which continues in her latest film "The Future", but now includes characters that aren't human, and events impossible. The Future is about a couple in their mid-thirties, Sophie (Miranda July) is a children's dance instructor, while Jason (Hamish Linklater) has a job in tech-support that he can do from home on the couch. The two live happily, if uneventfully, in their own world of private jokes, musings, and intimate tangents, the kind that all couples have but that like excessive public displays of affection are rarely observed by those in the outside world. They have decided to adopt a kitten, but a sick one that is scheduled to die in six months, so that it will be not so much a commitment as a few months of charity, and maybe also maybe a dry run to having children. The "c" word never comes up directly, but its visible in nervous glances they exchange when they discover the cat could live another four years. "We'll be forty by then". The kitten in question, named Paw Paw, also serves as a narrator, but one whose perspective is completely limited to his cage, and his imaginings of what life will be like once he is adopted by July and Linklater. Paw Paw is unfailing, undying hope for the future incarnate. He's always been an outside cat, the world of inside sounds like a paradise. So too, do July and Linklater proceed from their cage like apartment to map out their own futures. July convinces Linklater, they are getting older and must seize the day! Seizing the day requires them to quite their jobs, vow to be "sincere" with everyone and in all things, to limit Internet access to one hour a day, and follow their dreams. But what are their dreams? What one of July's points here seems to be is that people often decide to follow their dreams, before they even know what their dreams are. No one is allowed to exist in the present, unless it is in service to the future. Maybe it's better to just sleep soundly next to your loved one than bother with dreams. "It's a widely known fact that dreams are just your brains way of taking a dump at the end of the day."-Stella, "Kaboom" One great scene finds July watching two of her friends, whose lives seem to pass by in seconds, until she's standing in front of their grandchildren. Notice all the trophies on one side in the screen-shot below from said scene.
Linklater isn't sure what his dreams are, he wants to "help the world" but doesn't know how or where to begin. He takes a job with a "non-profit" going door to door trying to get people to buy trees to be planted throughout the city. July tries to do a video-project for YouTube called "30 days, 30 dances", inspired by videos of younger girls dancing in their bedrooms imitating girls from rap videos. Her dances are not as overtly sexual, but slinky, jerky performance art that never seems to get itself started. Linklater's sincerity or guilt for not feeling "more" leads him to buy a drawing on sale at the animal shelter. July's renewed sense of destiny and the significance of everything leads her in a moment of self-doubt, to impulsively to get into contact with the artist, a man named Marshall.
This "yes to everything" attitude, quickly leads to an affair. He puts his hand on her leg, she humps his furniture. Marshall is an older suburban single dad and owner of his own company. Though we never learn too much of his perspective its obvious she is a shot life to him, while he is her chance to be a "kept woman", free of having to decide anything more about the future. Finally a chance, to just "be" and let someone else foot the bill for once. No more worries about rent, career, talent, beauty, or the entropy of such things. "I wish I was prettier. I'm on the verge of being attractive, but I still have to make my case to everyone who looks at me.", July says of herself early on. "Your free now" Marshall tells her during a "Welcome" barbeque as he gestures her in the direction of his daughter.
Meanwhile when Linklater discovers the affair, before he can ask any questions, he manifests an ability to freeze time by placing his hands on July's head. Here the narrative splits in two parallel stories, one of July's new life in the suburbs, and the other of Linklater's in the apartment where time stands still. Linklater begins talking to the moon, which speaks back to him in the voice of an old man that he meet earlier; a man he believed was a sign of he and July's future of growing old together. July's new suburban life is just as dull as her old life, but with no chance of failure or responsibility hanging over her. An old t-shirt of Linklater's seems to be edging its way across town of its own accord, like a creeping memory of the world she left behind. At the same time Marshall's daughter begins to ominously dig a a hole in the backyard, but she wont say for what or why?This all sounds complicated, but when all is said and done, the plot makes sense on an emotional level that never gets buried under the allure of its fantasy elements. "The Future" finds Miranda July stepping into interstitial territory previously synonymous with Woody Allen and Charlie Kaufman; combing personal details ("30 Dances, 30 Days" is a more amateurish version of July's Blond Redhead music video), with a satirical eye for conventional relationships equally open to turns of the dramatic, the neurotic, the deadpan, and the poetic. Quitting your job in the worst recession in decades because your a month away from getting a sick kitten that has made you suddenly aware of your impending adulthood/responsibility/death is just as possible as freezing time with your thoughts, talking to the moon, or stepping out of your life and into your fantasy kept suburban wifedom, because in "The Future" all things are possible. Cats are dreaming of life in your house, but the future is less fresh tuna and flying cars as much recordings of bedroom rump-shaking and trees pining over places to be planted. Maybe its the looming of the future itself, its shadow across the surface of what responsible lives are supposed to resemble that drives these characters from their simple "twee" world of uni-sex haircuts, security blankets and sleepy, snuggly, afternoons, and into ruin, bitterness, and isolation. "When your just starting out...you'll do terrible things to each other"-the old man. But ignoring the future, is no better than blindly saying "yes" to all it, because all decisions have consequences and time can't stand still forever. What begins with all the makings of a typical rom-com story of slackers finding purpose, sidewinds into magic realist study of fears of parenthood/adulthood like "Eraserhead" if he had to work at a build-a-bear in the mall. For all its strangeness, "The Future" has the most realistic endings of any film Ive seen this year. Bitter-sweet is beauty without sentiment, true acceptance of how cosmically wonderous all the minutia of daily life is while never forgetting most of it will be forgotten tomorrow. "The Future" is bittersweet. Your kittens is wounded and waiting.

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