MOVIES | Sorry, Miranda July: I walked out on “The Future”

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Reader, I throw myself upon your mercy. Call me unprofessional, call me impatient, call me Shirley, but there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to consider the limited number of days remaining in that life and consider what proportion of one of those days he wants to spend watching Miranda July’s The Future. Well, maybe not every man’s life—but it did come in mine, and I walked out after about 40 minutes.

There may be those of you who write me off forever because of this decision. I’ve already seen the looks people give me when I admit that I wasn’t a fan of July’s previous feature Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005). They’d even bring it up to me in unrelated contexts. “Oh,” they’d say, “that’s right. You’re the guy who doesn’t like Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Right. And now I’m digging my hole even deeper.

All right, but give me a break here. The Future is narrated by a cat—a cat who’s injured, probably dying, and awaiting adoption by Sophie (July) and her boyfriend Jason. The boyfriend is played by Hamish Linklater, who looks so similar to July that you start to wonder whether there’s some Flowers in the Attic business going on here—and whether that was true of a previous generation as well, which might help to explain the seeming mental disabilities from which both Sophie and Jason suffer.

The IMDB plot summary indicates that later in the film, the course of space and time are “literally altered,” and okay, I wonder a little bit about how exactly that works, but that happened in Green Lantern too, and it was hard to give a damn because the characters were boring as old wood. I’m not being facetious when I refer to the seeming mental disabilities from which Sophie and Jason suffer, because if there’s no psychopathological explanation for the manner in which they go about responding to their life-direction crises, then there’s really no way I’m going to find any meaningful connection between these characters’ lives and mine, or yours, or anyone’s we know.

Between interludes in which the cat (voiced by July, in a voice that one suspects necessitated the creation of this film around it once it was invented) narrates the circumstances of his life—with gestures, mind you, with gestures—Sophie and Jason use a logic foreign to any Western or non-Western philosopher to deduce that their lives will effectively cease once the cat arrives in their custody, so they’d better start living it up.  This transforms their maddeningly cute relationship into one that’s just maddening, as Sophie cowers in fear of putting herself on YouTube (paging Dr. Double Dream Hands!) and Jason volunteers soliciting door-to-door for a tree-planting charity that may be shady in non-literal ways as well.

Just before I left (like in the folk song, the cat keeps coming back and won’t stay away), Sophie was backing vacuously into a situation that looked like it might lead to a sexual dalliance—if we had any indication that she or her boyfriend even knew what sex was. These characters are in their mid-30s, but from the way they interact with the world and one another, you wonder whether they know that “sex” means something more than just kissing with tongues. If they do, you wonder whether it’s ethical, or even legal, to have intercourse with a woman who carries a blankey with her at all times. (I kid. You. Not.)

If The Future turns into Citizen Kane, I offer my apologies to you, reader, and to Miranda July for walking out. But Jesus H. Christ, for the first 40 minutes this movie is so vapidly twee that it makes Zooey Deschanel look like Janet Reno.