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Sundance + Berlinale 2011. Miranda July's "The Future"

"Miranda July's new feature The Future revolves around a talking cat, a precocious little girl, a single father, a wise old man, and a hipster couple in Los Angeles who, faced with the prospect of a small dose of responsibility entering their lives in one month's time, quit their menial jobs in order to live life to the fullest for their last thirty days of true freedom. Gag, right?" asks Karina Longworth, blogging for the Voice. "That these recipe-for-indie-sugar-shock elements come together in a dark, understated and surreal package while generally skirting the tweeness of July's Me and You and Everyone We Know, is a testament to July's growing confidence and ability as a filmmaker. By incorporating elements reminiscent of her performance and video art seamlessly into the story, she's exploring highly specific, minutely observed emotions with deep resonance, while testing the limits of what narrative cinema can be and do."

The AV Club's Noel Murray "didn't much care for the exasperatingly twee Me and You and Everyone We Know," but now "I find myself in the awkward position of being so in love with The Future that I want to spirit it away and hide it in a box, lest anyone sneer at or make fun of it. Because I'll be honest: on the surface, there's a lot here to mock. July stars opposite Hamish Linklater (a favorite of mine from the underrated sitcom The New Adventures Of Old Christine, and not incidentally a July lookalike), who plays her equally immobile boyfriend… I never would've expected to watch a movie about such absolute ninnies without yelling at the screen for them to grow the hell up… But July and Linklater turn their ineptitude into a funny running joke, which becomes surprisingly affecting in the second half, after July decides to change her life by having an affair with a wealthy suburbanite; while for his part, Linklater decides to freeze time. (Trust me, it makes sense in context.) … The Future is elliptical, but never shaggy." Grade: A-.

At one point, "the movie's rigid eccentricity grows wings and becomes almost spiritual in its strangeness," writes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "Watching it, I honestly thought of David Lynch and the animism and erotic metaphysical shapeshifting in the movies of Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul… Miranda July invited us to watch her break up with herself."

"The net effect is a combination of Nicholson Baker's sharp flights of fancy (in general feel and in one very specific detail) and Raymond Carver's flat, unaffected conversations that are still cinematic, not literary," finds James Rocchi, writing for the Playlist. "Shot around Silverlake in Los Angeles, The Future is technically impressive as well. Nikolai von Gravenitz's cinematography turns July's idiosyncratic eye into cinematic images, and Jon Brion's score is quietly melodic and haunting. Linklater's unblinking comedy delivery is the perfect match to July's arch-but-sincere sense of human foible, and the third act's events take his character and performance to unexpectedly dark and rewarding places." Another A-.

"The Future is a bit of a bait and switch," writes Kyle Buchanan for Vulture: "Innocent and earnest enough that you think you have it pegged, but then you miss the emotional sideswipe that's coming. Though both of July's movies have starred her as as character who doubts her own potential, and in fact July admitted that she dreaded mounting a second feature, every line of dialogue in The Future is sure-footed and exact, and every scene is specific enough to be its own short film. Perhaps we made a mistake in thinking that as a work of art, The Future was fragile: By the end of the movie, it was the unusually affected moviegoers themselves that were vulnerable. With this sophomore effort, July has proven herself one of cinema's most vital voices."

"The unlikely narrator of the story, the poetic feline 'Paw Paw' establishes the movie's soul-searching vibe in the first seconds of the movie, romantically pontificating about his dream of going outdoors," writes indieWIRE's Eric Kohn. "As the portrait of a relationship meltdown involving two eccentric creative types prone to self-doubt, July's sophomore feature bears a strong resemblance to husband Mike Mills's upcoming Beginners, although July's version of the story has a more experimental edge. It primarily succeeds by leaving its metaphoric content open-ended, arguing that the only thing determinable about the future is that it exists entirely within the minds those willing to imagine it."

"Active in assorted media, July has a rarified sensibility that's hard to pin down, as it's both rigorous and massively whimsical," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. "Here, unfortunately, the latter dominates in a portrait of two 35-year-olds whose intensely limited and selective way of examining their position in life and the world suggests delusional naivete and a decidedly self-deceptive way of preparing for the eventuality indicated by the title."

Peter Debruge for Variety: "July risks alienating a certain contingent with every twee idea she throws at the screen, but she's fearless in her execution, earning hearty laughs throughout as she unveils inventive new ways of tackling the absurdities of life."

FirstShowing's Ethan Anderton finds The Future "absolutely hilarious, delightful and wholly fascinating."

 



James Ponsoldt talks with July for Filmmaker. Viewing (7'52"): An IntheCan interview with July and Linklater.

Screening in the Premieres program at Sundance and in Competition at the Berlinale.

Updates: Viewing (2'24"). Filmmaker talks with July again; as you'll see right off, this one's a Jamie Stuart production.

"Instead of the wonderment of small moments, most of what we get is the banality," finds David D'Arcy in Screen. "The Future gives us fatalism, rather than the delicate freshness of her first feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)."

Updates, 1/26: "At the very moment of complete creative failure, Sophie initiates an affair with an older man whose very square life is swaddled in beige furniture and 1000-thread count sheets," notes Alicia Van Couvering at Filmmaker. "The comparably Stepford-ish existence represents a suburban escape from the pressure of carving your own path out of life as a creative, independent individual. Does that pressure deserve deep examination, or is the world's most trite dilemma, worthy merely of scorn and ridicule? Ironically, that question is at the heart of the dilemma itself. All the films and fiction about slow, creeping disappointment in the person you imagined you'd be (and imagined you'd be with) come with the self-conscious awareness that having the time to wonder about whether your life is useless is what makes it useless in the first place."

Alison Willmore at IFC.com: "A t-shirt crawls down Sophie's street and into the house, and she pulls it on upside down, stretching the material over her head like a cocoon and finding, perhaps, the dance she's been looking for. It's a strange, bewitching scene, one that encapsulates all the ineffable angst that's been building over the film, the frustration that you're not the person you wanted to become, the terror that the life you're leading isn't preparation for something vague upcoming improved thing, but is simply what you have."

Interviews with July: Kyle Buchanan (Vulture) and Deenah Vollmer (Interview).

Update, 1/31: (Viewing 3'13"). Elvis Mitchell chats up July and Linklater for Movieline.

Updates, 2/21: For Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek, "it takes Jason and Sophie forever to do anything. It's as if they're moving and talking in an underwater dream, and they have the audacity to think we ought to care about it all… The Future is actually trying hard to be about something: The painful reality that it's impossible for us to value seemingly dull everyday routines, as well as the emotional security that often comes with them, until they're gone. And in the film's final 20 minutes, July comes close to pulling off something that feels like poignance. Close, but no cigar."

But for Shelagh Rowan-Legg, writing at Twitch, "July's work as a filmmaker continues to grow in strength and originality."

Brian Brooks talks with July for indieWIRE.

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