Monday, August 8, 2011

The Future

THE FUTURE             C+                  
USA  (91 mi)  2011  d:  Miranda July

I'm just a rock in the sky... and the world is so far away.                  
—Voice of the Moon (Joe Putterlik)

This is one of the least involving films you’ll ever see, so much so one wonders why it was even made at all?  One can only think it’s a bleak, personal reaction to a separation or a loved one’s death, where the film lists a dedication to Joe Putterlik, a real life person who acts in the film, but died before it was released.  While this bears the distinct quirkiness of a Miranda July film, a slow detachment that borders on boredom, short verbal outbursts that seem restricted to ten words or less, characters that seem to remain in a perpetual state of limbo, momentary occasions of laughter, and a near plotless storyline, yet it’s surprisingly absent in establishing any relevancy in our lives.  Walking out of the film afterwards, one suspects this is one of the least effective pieces in the collected works of someone as clever and imaginative as Ms. July, who is also a performance artist who works in multimedia formats, including short films, music videos, books, and feature length films that she writes and directs while also appearing as a main character.  This is a film that clearly establishes its own boundaries and ground rules, so the audience is open to something fresh and unique, but what Ms. July provides instead is a rather lame relationship movie about a bored, middle class Los Angeles couple that finds it hard to commit.  Starring Hamish Linklater as Jason, her live-in boyfriend, the two are living together friction free in perfect harmony and bliss, but there is no chemistry between them other than a close friendship.  They may as well be brother and sister, though that’s perhaps an exaggeration.  They get along fine and enjoy each other’s company, but neither one has a life, yet are unaware of their deep seeded emptiness. 

The film is narrated by Ms. July’s voice as an injured cat that is sitting in an animal shelter waiting to get adopted, where this couple comes ready to adopt but is told they must wait 30 days due to a medical condition that must heal before the cat can be released.  This momentary setback plays havoc with the couple’s future, as they suddenly feel their best years are behind them, failing to live up to their dreams, where they have become, well—ordinary.  As they believe the cat will somehow unify their lives, the 30 day interim becomes an exploratory stage to chuck it all and begin anew, as they believe afterwards this newly discovered commitment will send their lives on a downward end-of-their-lives spiral, including a decided lack of freedom.  What would they do if they only had 30 days left to live?  July quits her job as a ballet dance instructor of infants while Jason quits his online computer service and walks the streets of LA selling trees door to door as part of the city’s outreach program to allow trees to naturally replenish the smoggy atmosphere with more oxygen.  While in theory this may work, Jason finds he is easily sidetracked, as the city’s residents show little interest or enthusiasm, so instead he starts hanging around the home of a man named Joe (Joe Putterlik) that he discovers in a Penny Saver advertisement.  Joe has many interests, including electrical repair, weird philosophical sayings and holiday cards with lewd limericks attached.  Jason uses him as a kind of father figure, as he effortlessly dispenses with good natured advice. 

Ms. July, on the other hand, decides to make a YouTube dance video for every day of the 30 days, inspired by the music of Beach House- 'Master of None' (seen here on YouTube:  3:49), but becomes dismayed with her lack of talent, so quickly loses interest.  Instead, she calls at random a phone number listed on the back of a drawing Jason recently purchased, which leads her into the home of David Warshofsky, a well to do single father in his own home in the suburbs raising a daughter (Isabella Acres) who expresses a maturity level well beyond her years.  This random act alters the balance between Ms. July and Jason, as she mystifyingly becomes attracted to his rather crude nature, becoming sucked into a new dream fantasy that doesn’t even appear to be her own.  Where this all leads is to a kind of magical realism, where characters think time can literally stop, where they can sort out the major difficulties in their lives, but time moves ahead anyway without their realizing it, altering the landscape as they know it, which will never again be as it was.  The film seems to thrive on despairing ambiguities and a wandering curiosity about very ordinary things, but much of it is an avoidance mechanism to avoid having to make a commitment, where they may never know how love feels, still withholding their emotions, keeping their freedom and individuality on reserve.  There’s a beautiful use of the song  Peggy Lee - Where Or When  YouTube (3:20), which is the epitome of romance, a fleeting illusion that fades into the hopes and dreams of the next couple. 

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