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As Paw Paw: How long was thirty days? It was turning out to be a little bit longer than say, for example, the day after tomorrow. Outside there was no time, no hours. Just alive, or not alive, or... bird. Now there was this new thing. Waiting, waiting for them to come get me. Waiting for my real life to begin. I learned to count the seconds. Now, now, now...
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"The Future" is promising but tries far too hard to be quirky and "Indie", causing it to suffer and feel almost like a parody...
Miranda July. I have a lot of respect for her as a human and an artist. She's a fantastic example of a strong-willed female artist (something the world takes for granted), and she has an admirable body of work behind her. But her filmmaking has left something of a sour taste in my mouth, mainly personified by her second feature-film, the subject of this review- "The Future."
The film is an example of something I've noticed over the past few years, mainly following the phenomenal film "Juno" by Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody. I call it "Indie Syndrome", where films try too hard to be quirky and of an "Indie" mindset. And it shows and hurts a lot of films. (Particularly movies like "(500) Days of Summer", which tried so hard, it felt like a parody of the "indie" style.)
July stars as Sophie, and Hamish Linklater stars as Jason, Sophie's boyfriend. They are essentially a self-absorbed, self-important, self-promoting, pretentious couple. They're the sort of people who think their crud don't stink, and think that life as they know it ends at 40. The main conflict of the story begins when they rescue a cat (off screen) that they name "Paw Paw", whom is staying at the vet clinic for a month. Sophie and Jason plan to return after the cat's stay at the clinic to adopt him, but in the meantime, they become over-fascinated and over-fearful of the idea and responsibility of caring for another living thing. Things are exacerbated by the fact that if they don't adopt, Paw Paw will be put to sleep due to overcrowding, turning the poor cat into a sort of McGuffin/Time Bomb story thread.
In the meantime, while trying to re-evaluate their lives and relationship and responsibility, a series of increasingly bizarre vignettes, skits and sub-plots commence, which is where the movie falls apart. Everything from Sophie cheating on Jason, to a bizarre living t-shirt that she sees crawling along the road, to a humorous but overblown subplot about Sophie starting a YouTube dancing video series is explored. But too much of it doesn't gel together, and feels forced.
All the while, the film occasionally cuts back to Paw Paw (actually at times a human being in a cat costume for no real reason), who narrates the story in an insidiously strange, high-pitched voice using simple, child-like logic and language. (Although, be warned, the cat isn't the only non-human character to speak.)
This is an exceedingly hard movie to review. The production is, to its credit, very competent and well-made. July's direction is perfect for this type of film, and from a dialog standpoint, her script is halfway decent. Costume and production design is great, and the ethereal music choices are fascinating. The acting is also very decent.
But it all boils down to that "Indie Syndrome" I spoke of earlier. It's near impossible to take this film as seriously as July and the cast want you to take it. The film reaches a point where you'll scream if it doesn't stop being so "Indie" and weird... but then it just gets more "Indie" and weird. It's hard to sit through at times. (And I'll admit, I did a lot of fast-forwarding while watching it, just so I could see enough key scenes to write this review) By the time Paw Paw is on his second or third narration (with that voice that makes you want to strangle the poor cat), or the ump-teenth scene focusing on Sophie's dance video, or the hundredth-or-so scene where the couple says or does things implying they see themselves as way more important than they are, you'll want to scream. This film, for all intents and purposes, ruins itself by trying too hard. July really should have gotten a more traditional screenwriter to do a ghost-second-draft that removed all of this forced, contrived nonsense that she seems to have thrown in only to appear quirky, artsy-fartsy and weird. I hate to over-use this word, but July made this film way too pretentious, and it hurts the work.
I'm giving "The Future" a 5 out of 10. It's not terrible. In fact, some of the scenes are exceedingly well-done, and without spoiling it, the ending is actually very poetic and well-written. But it tried way too hard to be artsy and weird, and it hurt the film overall.
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