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I have seen THE FUTURE

On Wednesday night I saw an early screening of Miranda July’s second film, THE FUTURE, an event I’ve been anticipating for months. Let it be known that I’m a true and unabashed fan, and while I don’t align myself with the brand of fangirl that accosted July after the screening armed with happy smiles and cute haircuts, I did indeed sign up for her biweekly life forecasts, which arrived in my inbox with the subject, “Your Future.” Though one prediction was actually dead on, mostly the emails were charmingly inaccurate, like yesterday’s, which read: “You become aroused in a new way. I don’t mean poetically – it will happen in the genital area. But not how it usually does. Good luck, Miranda.”

This is just the kind of stunt that delights her supporters and enrages the haters, like Claudia and Elana, who write the I Hate Miranda July blog, a bitchy, dismissible rant I only visited for the purpose of writing this review. Among the things they hate about July is “her stupid twee-ass writing that doesn’t make any sense. It’s like bitch started reading e.e. cummings, and was like ‘lemme write the short story of this shit right quick, only let me take all the heart and beauty out it, so all you have left is INSUFFERABLE PRECIOUS NONSENSE.”

I couldn’t disagree more, and not just because I happen to like her films and really, really like her writing, but because her work in general strives to put the “heart and beauty” back into a style of filmmaking (I’ll drop another irk-inducing term here – indie filmmaking) that seems to teeter precariously on the verge of going the route of style over substance, my main gripe with a film like Wes Anderson’s THE DARJEELING LIMITED, for instance.

That’s not to say that THE FUTURE is the perfect halfway point between an articulate aesthetic vision and a story with soul, but it makes a valiant attempt and comes awfully close. THE FUTURE is surprisingly dark, much darker both in content and actual color palette than the 2005 ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW. Sophie (July) and Jason (played by the brilliant stage veteran Hamish Linklater) are, at 35, about to make a major commitment, at least for them. They’re going to adopt a cat, a moment that marks the beginning of the end of their lives. See, if the cat dies in five years they’ll be forty, and, according to their logic, forty is basically fifty and after that it’s too late to do anything new with your life. It’s now or never. July describes this notion as “kind of about letting go of that feeling of my 20s, that feeling that I will do absolutely everything, I will have sex with everyone, I will go to every country. In your 30s, it’s obvious that a finite amount of things will happen.”

But what do they want to happen? The sad truth is they have no idea. Sophie and Jason are both depressingly ambivalent about the goals they have for their lives, yet they’re desperate to make something of themselves. The film tracks their strange and often random choices and the unforeseen consequences that follow. July incorporates some bizarre and wondrous moments, like her birth/escape dance inside of a large yellow t-shirt, an image she was preoccupied with during the time she wrote the film, so she added it in. In fact, she admits to incorporating many of the film’s more outlandish moments for the same reason, and while they’re individually brilliant, they don’t necessarily belong together in the same narrative. Sometimes they even work against the film, acting as distractions from what I felt was the pivotal sequence, when Jason speaks with the moon (I’ll say no more about that lest I spoilt its magic).

THE FUTURE may have too many ideas for its own good, a juggling act it sometimes pulls off and sometimes doesn’t, but it still managed to knock me on my ass. At one point I felt both deeply sad and deeply nauseous. Moreover, it marks a step in a more mature direction for July, though Roger Ebert’s comments on her first feature still apply here, “July’s film fits no genre, fulfills no expectations, creates its own rules and seeks only to share a strange, lovable (and here I’ll add confused, lonely and lost) mind with us.”