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Total Crap33.33%

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Future, The (2011)
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by Jay Seaver

"'The Future' is not bright."
2 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2011: "The Future" is kind of amazing, in its annoying little way. It finds the shortest possible path from its characters doing something nice to them being ridiculous and insufferable, and then spends the next hour or so finding ways to make them more aggravating. What's worse, filmmaker Miranda July can't just make a movie about unpleasant people; she has to try and be clever.

Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) have just rescued a stray cat, whom they name "Paw-Paw" and who serves as our narrator. One of the cat's legs is broken, so it will have to stay at the animal shelter for a month. Upon getting home, they realize that this means they're settling down, which scares them, so they decide to quit their jobs (which they don't much like anyway) and spend the next thirty days doing something fulfilling. For Jason, this means going door to door selling trees for an environmental initiative; for Sophie, posting a new dance clip on YouTube every day. They get distracted, though - Jason by a nice but lonely old man who sells him a hairdryer on craigslist (Joe Putterlik) and Sophie by Marshall (David Warshofsky), who is on the other end of a phone number she stumbles upon.

I'm sure many couples have the idiotic conversation that sets this movie into action at some point or another, but even the ones without the self-awareness to realize how spoiled they sound will recognize that their grand plan doesn't actually make any sense. Not Sophie and Jason, though - they go and do things like canceling their internet access for no reason other than forcing an issue in their movie's contrived plot (Sophie needs to feel properly isolated and lonely as she does her ridiculous dance thing). Even if you grade on a curve for the movie being full of off-beat, exaggerated characters, nothing that these people do has a good reason behind it.

That's not a good thing, considering that the main characters are a fairly flat pair. Miranda July and Hamish Linklater play their parts as distaff mirrors of each other, blank and selfish and devoid of wit. They're given small behavioral quirks at the beginning that play into the last act (where they do at least begin to display some recognizably human panic and guilt), but otherwise they are frustratingly lifeless. There's no chemistry between them, and any concern the audience is supposed to have about the effect this month of following lame whims has on their relationship is muted by never being presented with enough passion to feel like there's anything at stake. David Warshofsky's Marshall is a bit of a blank, too, although Isabella Acres at least shows a bit of life as his daughter. The best performance probably comes from Joe Putterlik, who is less an actor playing a part than a sort of found object, a guy the filmmakers met and plopped into their movie, letting the character form around him.

July isn't devoid of ideas; there are nuggets of insight and creativity that could shine with a much better movie around them. Paw-Paw's narration, for instance, is often such a beautiful and painful evocation of what it feels like to find someone to love you and whom you can love in return that it's wasted on a couple that at best seems somewhat affectionate. There are moments of surreality that capture the audience's imagination, even after it's clear that one is a metaphor for pathetically lying in bed. That this is not entirely a stupid movie - that it's got a very definite central idea about where trying to force happiness leads - only makes the weakness of almost everything around that core more frustrating.

That's clever, but being clever isn't worth a whole lot if it's buried under characters and situations this ridiculous. "The Future" has its strengths, but its weaknesses are so crippling and so basic as to render them impotent.

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originally posted: 05/19/11 10:13:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Berlin International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 series, click here.

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  29-Jul-2011 (R)
  DVD: 29-Nov-2011


  DVD: 29-Nov-2011

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