Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are strange the way all couples are strange when they’re alone. They live in a small LA apartment, have jobs they hate, and in one month they’ll adopt a stray cat named Paw Paw. Like a newborn baby, he’ll need around-the-clock care – he may die in six months, or it may take five years. Despite their good intentions, Sophie and Jason are terrified of their looming loss of freedom. So with just one month left, they quit their jobs, and the Internet, to pursue their dreams – Sophie wants to create a dance, Jason wants simply to be guided by fate. But as the month slips away, Sophie becomes increasingly, humiliatingly paralysed.
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: American filmmaker and performance artist Miranda July’s long-awaited second feature is roughly twice as quirky as her charmingly eccentric debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know – which is saying something. For a start it’s narrated by a cat that we never see, apart from two front paws displayed in close-up, one of them encased in bandages. Among its many off-the-wall moments are scenes of a young man talking to the moon and a T-shirt that crawls along the ground of its own volition.
It could have been terrible and some will probably think it is. This is a film that will divide audiences into love or hate camps. Initially this viewer thought he’d be in the latter category, despite having greatly admired its predecessor. But July has a way of casting a quiet spell that gradually pulls the viewer into seeing the world through her eyes. Her viewpoint has much in common with that of an intelligent and hyper-imaginative youngster. She allows herself to record and construct a drama out of the kind of bizarre queries and fleeting thoughts that seem totally logical to a child but crazy to adults. Yet behind this blizzard of kookiness and whimsy are many keen insights into very adult life dilemmas, fears and insecurities.
The protagonists are Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a childless Los Angeles couple whose drifting, Generation X lifestyle is tipped into crisis by the realisation that the cat they are about to adopt might live for five years and not the 6 months they were expecting. Granted one month of 'freedom" before they become responsible parents to a real live animal, they decide to break out of their routines and explore the world, quitting their jobs (hers as an unenthusiastic children’s dance instructor, his as an IT help desker), getting off the internet, and exploring their true desires. Soon Hamish is selling trees door-to-door for a green charity – none too successfully – while in a series of very funny scenes Sophie sets out to perfect dance routines to upload onto YouTube, getting caught up in self-doubt every time.
Initially Linklater’s Hamish struck me as a mistake, not only because of his all-round wimpiness (which I found more irritating than amusing) but because he’s simply a male version of her child-woman, Sophie. There’s not enough contrast between their personalities to provide any dramatic juice. Some way into the story though it becomes clear that this 'flaw" is deliberate. Sophie is indeed aware there is a problem here, which is why she finds herself attracted to a far more conventional, 'manly" male (David Warshofsky). Sophie willingly embraces the role of passive love object without seeming to understand why – she’s operating on base instinct, living out a perverse fantasy of being a housewife in the suburbs.
Watch 'The Future'
Thursday 30 April, 12:20am on SBS VICELAND (streaming after broadcast at SBS On Demand)
Director: Miranda July
Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky
What's it about?
When a couple (July & Linklater) decides to adopt a stray cat their perspective on life changes radically, literally altering the course of time and space and testing their faith in each other and themselves. Miranda July's follow up as writer-director to 2005's arthouse hit Me and You and Everyone We Know.