Thinking about your future can be a scary prospect. Some find it’s easier to live in the distraction of the moment or hope for time to stand still, while others mourn the inertia of their life and see little hope of change. These themes are all explored in Miranda July’s whimsical, sometimes surrealistic film, “The Future,” which she wrote, directed and stars in.
July, whose first film was the much-lauded 2005’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” is surely one of the most inventive indie filmmakers out there. With a solid background in performance art, her second feature, “The Future” centers its story on a naive mid-30s couple at a crossroads, but her narrative style detours in delightfully bizarre ways.
We meet the two main characters, Sophie (played by July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater, a familiar face from his television role in the sitcom “The New Adventures of Old Christine”), sitting on a couch in their small L.A. apartment glued to their laptops, unwilling to talk or even get up for a glass of water. Their life is in freeze frame. It’s even a game they play where Jason with a wave of his hand pretends to halt time. They’re a sweet and likable couple but infuriatingly passive and childlike, and July and Linklater manage to bring warmth to the offbeat humor of their deadpan and detached characters.
They plan to adopt a sickly stray cat, Paw-Paw, from an animal shelter and the looming deadline of impending adult responsibility throws them into a panic to make up for lost time. They quit their dead-end jobs, disconnect from the Internet and pursue their desires. Sophie plans to YouTube 30 dances in 30 days in the hope of recognition while Jason volunteers for an environmental organization.
Paw-Paw, mostly seen as two puppet paws (one bandaged) is the film’s narrator (a high, scratchy voice supplied by July), and effectively provides the pathos and symbolic emotional core of the film, as he waits in a cage for his “real” life to begin.
It seems Sophie and Jason are having trouble figuring out what their “real” life is supposed to be as their initial ambitions vie into distracting tangents. Sophie begins an affair with a mundane, middle-aged single father in the valley, while Jason spends more time conversing with an elderly collector he visits (an inspired piece of casting of octogenarian non-actor Joe Putterlik, whom July found through PennySaver and filmed the scenes in his real home), who eerily parallels Jason’s future self.
But it’s July’s deft use of fantastical elements (Jason converses with a talking moon when he is unwilling to confront the crisis in his relationship) while Sophie is stalked by a moving T-shirt (yes, it’s crawling on its own) that represents the guilt she feels over her affair, that make “The Future” stylistically adventurous and endearingly compelling.
The future may be worrisome and unknown but at least for 90 minutes we can be entertained by Miranda July’s creative musings on its possible paths.
“The Future,” 120 minutes, rated R; showing at Laemmle Pasadena; www.laemmle.com