The Future (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Future (2011)

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I'm a little behind the ball on The Future. Miranda July's second feature length outing as both director and star has been out for nearly a month, and I've just now gotten to it on the last legs of its run. Ironic, I suppose that a film called The Future already seems forgotten-- but isn't that the American way?

As for the movie itself, The Future is, at best, unapologetically obtuse, a film so filled with unbearable whimsy that it's almost enough to make someone wretch.

That being said, it's not bad, per se. When I say 'it's almost enough to make someone wretch', I can't help but assume that that's intentional-- whimsy is rarely accidental, and, as presented here, exemplifies a half dozen belabored metaphors. A story as mundane as this necessitates being elevated to magical realism to be unique, and here July does not disappoint. Whether or not that's enjoyable to witness is a bigger point of contention.


The Future is the story of a couple who look nearly identical and sit on opposite ends of the couch. Both are in careers that barely qualify as that, and spend their free time starring at their Apple laptops. They're unbearably inert.

This changes when they make the fateful decision to adopt a cat they'd discovered. They're forced to wait thirty days while the cat recovers from surgery, and both make the fateful decision to shake up their lives-- one last attempt at 'living' before a miniscule amount of responsibility enters their sheltered world.

And that, inevitably, turns out to be completely disastrous. Both, shaken out of their technology induced haze, awaken to find themselves deeply unsatisfied with their lives. Jason, the male side of the duo, becomes a volunteer dedicated to raise consciousness for Global Warming and sell trees across the city-- something that interests him for about as long for him to put on the vest in the morning. His growing animosity for finding his own passion is paralleled by his talks with a lonely old man, with whom he discovers some undeniable similarities.

In the meantime, his girlfriend Sophie tries to unleash her artistic side in a vain attempt to gain internet stardom. She can't remove her sense of self from her work, and becomes dysfunctionally self conscious-- the plight of many. Without the internet, she retreats into her only possibly avenues, and begins to reawaken herself sexually.


The Future occasionally finds a kernel of truth in these proceedings, which turns out to be pretty meager considering the hostile layers of defensive oddness piled on. As Jason 'stops time' (an almost touching metaphor for not being able to let go of a heartbreak) and Sophie becomes domestic out of an irresistible desire to accomplish something, no matter how small, we're never much drawn into their trials. What surrounds them is so egregiously superficial that it makes the conflict itself seem the same way.

This is more or less tolerable, but the film insists on poking the audience repeatedly by having the cat that's destined to alter these two egomaniacs' lives narrate the movie. While we've certainly had cute animals in films before, Paw-Paw is, to be blunt, kind of an annoying asshat. Its dialogue reads like a short story July cobbled together in the fourth grade, and, while attempting to illuminate the arcs that the humans themselves are going through, its cat eyed view of the world instead lend the film a creepy vibe, as if its characters were being methodically stalked.

And that may be intentional as well. Sophie and Jason both choose a life of freedom and almost immediately lose control of their lives-- a deeply frightening thing when removed from this movie's essential twee sensibilities. Sophie is doubly stalked by a comfortable old shirt that crawls along the ground, unwavering in its desire to return to her life. It's an indie hipster comedy that's doubling as a nightmare of what life is really like.


To extrapolate that a bit further, The Future is, I assume, supposed to resemble a comedy, but, if so, is strained to the point of sterility. There's not much mirth to be found here, only empty strangeness designed to amuse. I got the same feeling from the humor here as I do when I catch a video on YouTube that's obviously some viral marketing-- there's no urgency, no point to it. It's designed to be enjoyed, but done so in such a way that it feels artificial.

Which is a weird thing to say about a film so self consciously weird. And that might just be the problem at the heart of the whole film: nothing matters. Despite what the three main characters go through, from heartbreak to ecstasy to death, it's told in such a way to mean nothing. When it comes to it, in a lot of ways, The Future is just kind of... there.

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Posted by Danny

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