*The Future (R)
Kimball's Peak Three
Growing up sucks. Especially that stretch where you're technically an adult but not yet a grown-up, when you start making the big decisions that impact the rest of your life. Some of us take on that role while young and others put it off, but we all know the truth: Putting away those childish things is a bummer, and the day you realize that you're a grown-up is a tough blow to the psychic chops.
Miranda July, that storkish enigma of a performance artist, examines these moments in The Future, the follow-up to her 2005 debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know. As in all of her work, the movie is seen through a lens that's distorted, a mirror that's both reflective and opaque. The image will be disturbing to some and completely unwatchable to others, while a quiet few will embrace it as touching, emotional and frighteningly familiar.
The story is told from the point of view of Paw-Paw, an injured stray cat. Paw-Paw, voiced by July, introduces us to Sophie (July) and her boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater), who found the cat and delivered it to a shelter. Sophie and Jason are an unmarried couple in their mid-30s, neither having accomplished as much as they might have liked. She teaches dance classes to toddlers, while he does over-the-phone tech support from home. Mostly, they're just living their lives in something of an arrested-development limbo. But, suddenly, they find they have committed to adopting Paw-Paw in a month's time, when she's healed.
This changes everything. Only 30 days until real life and responsibility arrive. They'll suddenly be grown up and pushing 40, then 50. And then, as Jason says, the rest is just loose change, not quite enough to get anything you want.
They respond by quitting their jobs. He volunteers for an environmental agency, while Sophie starts a YouTube project. But nothing satisfies. Soon, Jason spends his afternoons visiting an old man whose life was, he hopes, much like his is going to be. Sophie begins an affair with Marshall (David Warshofsky), a single dad with a strange, precocious daughter (Isabella Acres).
So, we've got a talking cat and enormous lifestyle changes. But that's not where things get really weird. See, Jason discovers he has the power to stop time and have conversations with the moon. A T-shirt follows Sophie around town. The little girl spends most of her time digging a hole in which to bury herself.
Of course, everything represents something else and July isn't overt in explaining what. Her character runs away from impending responsibility into an even more grown-up situation. In Jason's case, plenty of us have stopped time when things get bad by going off the grid and essentially denying the negative stuff we're facing. Sure, sometimes July's methods feel a bit twee, but they're nothing if not unique.
The changes and decisions these two make have almost nothing to do with the future itself, but everything to do with the anticipation of what's going to happen. Jason does his best to sort out what's going to happen to them, whereas Sophie goes out of her way to sabotage her own life. That, sadly, is often what life is like, and seems to be the film's true insight. Because if The Future tells us anything, it's that we really don't know what the future holds.