dir: Miranda July
Do you ever wonder if you’re really as intelligent as you think/hope you are?
I mean, no-one really thinks they’re as dumb as they actually are, hence the essence of dumbness, but, for me, watching a flick like this, called The Future, it makes me think I’m nowhere near as bright as I think I am.
Miranda July is a performance artist, writer, director and probably cobbler in her spare time as well. Film is just another installation / exhibition to her, perhaps. I watched her first film Me, You and Everyone We Know, and enjoyed it as much as these kinds of flicks can be enjoyed. And I read her collection of short stories called No-one Belongs Here More Than You.
None of this has given me a window into her thinking, apart from knowing she’s a very odd person. And that’s cool. I’ve been watching a lot of formulaic Hollywood pap lately, and it’s good to have a cleanse now and then. This flick The Future couldn’t be more different from formulaic pap.
By the same token, that doesn’t mean I entirely get it, or that I enjoyed it that much.
The Future doesn’t seem so much to be about the future itself, but about paralysis in the present in contemplation of the ineffable ‘future’. As in, our protagonists, Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), do some weird shit because of the ever-looming ‘future’. The future is embodied by a wounded cat they have picked up and taken to an animal shelter, with a damaged leg that needs a month to heal before they can bring him home. The cat patiently waits for them, and they re-examine their lives in respect to this oncoming responsibility.
Of course, since this involves Miranda July, the film plays out in ways which only David Lynch, or possibly schizophrenics could predict, or figure out. She is obsessed with recording videos of herself dancing, but whenever she’s supposed to start dancing, she gets distracted by whatever is in the room, or by her bangs, or by anything, really. She freezes. The looming prospect of The Future, in case it wasn’t obvious, causes her, at least momentarily, to be trapped within the ‘to be or not to be’ dilemma made famous by some Danish prince in a play a while back.
Jason quits his tech support job, and stumbles into an even more pointless one, selling trees. Because he’s the male equivalent, in more ways than just looks, of Miranda July’s character, the Future’s even more debilitating for him, perhaps because he’s even more pathetic. He at least is somewhat more likable, though it hardly seems to matter. At a crucial point in the flick, he doesn’t so much get trapped in some kind of stasis; he freezes time itself for many days, unwilling to live either in the present or in contemplation of the future.
Out of pretty much nowhere, Sophie starts seeing some middle-aged guy with a daughter. The scene where they have sex, at least I think it was sex, is perhaps the oddest implied sex scene you have ever seen in thy whole life. It sure as fuck was one of the oddest (non-horrifying) things I’ve seen in a while.
Oddness is pretty much the theme and the allure of something like this, which I don’t really think succeeded in what it was trying to do. But it was trying to do something, so I guess I have to give it some credit. I wouldn’t even go so far as to label it an interesting failure, because it’s not really that interesting. I can’t even imagine some alternate reality, given the possibility of infinite other realities, where I ever voluntarily watch this flick again. Take that, multiple other versions of me!
There would really be not much to watch. There are some interesting ideas… but they’re just ideas. This renders the flick, or at least the bits you could recall above the banalities, that are like somewhat intriguing installations at a gallery, glanced at as you walk through, glimpsing elements that might perchance have some connective theme, but don’t really hang together anyway, so you lose what little interest you possessed in the first place.
Let’s face it, the only real reason to go to this gallery ‘opening’, like any gallery opening, is to support a friend whose work you don’t really like anyway, and for the cheap, often cask, wine on offer.
Cheap wine wouldn’t really have enhanced this experience, I don’t think, but part of me still wants to like it, perhaps more than it deserves. Maybe it succeeds at what it’s trying to do by frustrating me, since that works thematically in context. The characters are frustrated by their inability to move forward, to act decisively in the face of the ever-present Sword of Damocles that is the future, mired as they are in their fear of all the awesome stuff that they could be doing that they never intended to do anyway, which will be stymied when The Cat finally comes home.
It’s almost like the theoretical couple who want children but put off having a kid until they’ve had the travel and work experiences they think are appropriate to their age and station in life, waiting for just the right, perfect moment to breed. Then they blink, and are horrified to discover that they’re in their forties, with a life lived in anticipation of something they never really wanted in the first place.
Actually, maybe a better example is a couple who do nothing in anticipation of a child fixing every gaping wound and profound lack in their lives, only to have it miscarry in the end…
Like the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”, it’s the equivalent of letting the future become the enemy of the present.
Since the cat talks to us, it’s hard not to see it as a child, or the potentiality of a child. When Sophie seems to move on from what she was doing previously that she hated (as a dance teacher to children), she ends up right back there, in an amusing sequence where friends of hers age before her eyes, their children aging between blinks and enrolling their own kids within seconds. I guess to those of us stuck in dead-end jobs for decades, that scene might have a painful amount of resonance.
Or maybe not. There are plenty of other sequences that are just so fucking out there (without being that interesting or entertaining) that I’m really making the flick sound more involved than it has any right to. Think of it as dime-store David Lynch, just more pointless, much cheaper, and with even less payoff. The dance routine inside a t-shirt that was following Sophie around (I’m not going to dignify it by describing it further) is the perfect example.
Talking cats, people’s pointless fixation on trivia on the internet, a talking moon, time stopping, having sex with middle-aged men, a girl trying to bury herself alive, dirty limericks, the replication of furniture in two locations, the pointlessness of trying to save the environment: these things certainly are things, but their presence or absence here didn’t do much for me.
I didn’t like it, but I can’t entirely pretend I understood or got it either. But other people might like it, and understand it way better than I did. I have to allow for that possibility. And I certainly would not recommend it to anyone I like, even and especially people who like Miranda July’s various works.
Though I guess schizophrenics need to pay the bills and be entertained too.
5 times you can only say ‘what the fuck?’ enough times before you give up out of 10
“I have to tell you something.”
“Um... one thing, is that I'm wild.” – in a different film, that might matter to me – The Future