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Movie review: 'The Future'

Filmmaker Miranda July takes on midlife angst and romantic triangulation.

August 05, 2011|By Michael Phillips, Tribune Newspapers critic
  • Miranda July and Hamish Linklater in movie "The Future."
Miranda July and Hamish Linklater in movie "The Future." (Arno )

"Now that this has happened, what are my options?" Sophie asks her new thrill, Marshall, in "The Future." Sophie's long-term boyfriend, Jason, does not yet know about the affair.

"Well," Marshall says, "traditionally people either tell the truth, or they lie."

Sophie's response: "I could never do either of those things."

That's a funny line — Neil Simon funny, ba-DUM-bum funny. Yet writer-director Miranda July is also the female lead, and there is not a performer less inclined to go for the ba-DUM-bum Which makes Sophie's reply both funny and honest.

A vexing blend of foggy whimsy and observant soul-searching, "The Future" follows July's debut, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" (2005), in which July also appeared. Here she costars with Hamish Linklater, who looks and talks a lot like her: moppy hair, squishy conversational rhythms. Besides Sophie, Jason (Linklater) and Marshall (David Warshofsky), the other major presence is street cat Paw-Paw, whose thoughts about life, mortality and yearning we hear in voice-over. July does the voice.

Preschool dance and movement instructor Sophie and tech-support home worker Jason see their commitment to Paw-Paw's adoption as a deadline. They have 30 days before the cat's in good enough shape to bring home. So they have 30 days to go wild, in their own uncertain fashion. Now into their 30s, Jason and Sophie hear the clock ticking.

Jason volunteers for a project raising money door to door to fight global warming. Sophie decides to post 30 YouTube dance performances in 30 days. Then she has an affair. "The Future" nudges its characters in metaphysical directions, notably when Jason, who early on jokes he has the ability to stop time, turns out to have it for real.

Some of July's notions feel cloying at worse, easy at best: When the parallels between Paw-Paw and Sophie are laid out, we hear there's a "wild" nature that cannot be denied. This sense of unruliness is mitigated by July's gentleness and odd comic grace. The film doesn't have much of a motor. But there's a lot to like, and to admire.

mjphillips@tribune.com

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