The Tuesday Zone: Miranda July Tells Us About ‘The Future’

The Tuesday Zone

Two weeks ago, I reviewed Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July’s first film that garnered a fair amount of praise.  So, for this week, I decided to look at her second and most recent movie:

The Future (2011)

(0) Poster

GNK Productions & Haut et Court

Plot: Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are going to adopt a cat, but as they wait the mandatory thirty days, their perceptions of their relationship and life in general begin to alter.  The movie follows both characters in their pursuits of something, and also intercuts short sequences narrated by the their soon-to-be cat, Paw-Paw.

In case that last line didn’t give it away, this movie has a fanciful touch to it.  For those of you that did read my review of Me and You, or have seen it, then you know that July is interested in making a story that’s about an idea, and she does the same in The Future.  Her method, though, is more experimental, which will make this movie even more divisive than Me and You.

I think that the divisiveness comes from July’s acting and script.  She plays a similar character to Christine–her character in Me and You–which is a cocktail of aloofness, philosophizing, and uncertainty.  That character will downright piss a lot of people off.  The script similarly is a bit odd; the story is unrealistic and the characters don’t necessarily talk like real people.  Again, this will displease a lot of viewers.  In some ways, July’s style is similar to the David Lynch approach: construct the movie around a mood.   The danger is that the viewer will either dig what you’re doing or find it so awful that you would think the director went to her house and ate her cat.

Your aloofness is offensive.

GNK Productions & Haut et Court
Your aloofness is offensive.

So, a lot of people will hate this movie.  While I watched it, I felt like I should dislike it, but something about it made sense.  I think that, while July’s acting and script seem all over the place, she has careful control over what we see and hear.   One of the obvious themes that shows her control is the sense of being lost in life.  Jason and Sophie are detached from the real world, which explains the lack of realism in the plot–e.g. the characters can afford to just not have jobs for a while in order to raise a cat.  This is one of July’s recurring themes in her movies and written work: while we all exist in the same world, many people feel lost within it, trying to make sense of all the apparently disparate elements that everyone else seems to have figured out.

July plays with this idea in a lot of ways, but one that at first I thought was a result of poor editing and directing stands out in particular: the use of cross-cutting between Jason and Sophie’s stories.  At one point in the movie, Jason becomes caught in one particular moment and contemplates the meaning of what is about to happen to him (I’m trying to avoid spoilers).  Sophie is in this scene with him.  But meanwhile, Sophie’s life continues, and she too feels lost in time.  When does one scene take place in relation to another?  We can’t tell.  Sophie continues with her life but we keep cutting back to Jason in a scene that should have already happened in the movie’s timeline.  But that’s the entire point: people experience different events and moments in different ways, and a singular narrative–a perfectly chronological and clear timeline–in this movie would not fit the mindsets of its characters, who cannot make sense of the world around them.

To be fair, Silent Hill must be a difficult place to live in.

GNK Productions & Haut et Court
In their defense, Silent Hill must be a confusing place to live in.

The only character whose story progresses at a clear and consistent rate is Paw-Paw, because she waits for Jason and Sophie to come with no other concern.  We come back to her several times; whenever Jason and Sophie’s lives become confusing, we are brought back to the singular focus of an anticipatory cat.  Two things precipitate from these scenes: first, we see that Sophie and Jason’s inability to think outside of themselves has side-effects; and second, that the cat’s dependence on its soon-to-be owners confines her existence.  This storyline is clear and less hectic than Jason and Sophie’s, but it is also singular and thus similarly outside of the confusing, vast, but ultimately amazing reality that July believes in.  Again, what at first seems random and pointless is calculated by July to create a unified message.

The message: you can dance if you want to, and you can leave your friends behind.

GNK Productions & Haut et Court
The message: you can dance if you want to, and you can leave your friends behind.

Of course, maybe I only see what I want to, here, as can happen with experimental film.  I am not usually one for this style.  But something about The Future makes sense to me, and I have only scratched the surface of what July is doing.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to keep an open mind and not judge this movie outright in the first ten to fifteen minutes.  Allow yourself to become absorbed, and maybe you too will find something worth enjoying.

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