Sitting through The Future is something like spending an hour and a half in Urban Outfitters. You went there for something, and you very well may have found it, but you also ended up immensely frustrated by many of the precious things you saw. And you feel fairly confident that you could have been just as productive in far less time. Also, you heard that same Beach House song, like, a dozen times.
Filmmaker Miranda July is known for her proclivity for preciousness, and as The Future opens with narration from an aging, pensive cat named Paw Paw (voiced by July), it's clear that she has no intention of distancing herself from her reputation.
July and Hamish Linklater star as Sophie and Jason, a pair of mopey, somewhat clever, fatalist 35-year-olds who act like 25-year-olds, obsessed with their First World problems and wrapped in their 21st-century technological cocoons. Appearing more like a set of twins than a proper romantic pairing, Sophie and Jason decide to adopt the wounded Paw Paw. Their impending adoption of the ailing cat is the only semblance of commitment that the two solipsistic hipster flakes seem prepared for, and they decide to use the 30 days between now and, well, the future to blow off their jobs and seek higher meaning in, like, just being, you know?
Along the way, July manages some relevant if broad commentary about finding meaning in meaninglessness and about monogamy. And these people feel like you or me (or everyone we know), chained to laptops and half-living life. July occasionally finds a slice of true beauty from those moments in a little sliver of exceptional dialogue or in a character who is genuinely interesting. The elderly Joe (Joe Putterlik), for instance — an ancient retiree who makes raunchy postcards for his wife and serves as a sort of de facto spirit guide — is one of the most novel bits of the movie.
So, yes, via July's assorted narrative devices we see how commitment in and of itself can be off-putting, and how something or someone new — no matter how improbable — can be the breath of fresh air your sickly sex life needs. (But does that new object of your desire have to be a sleazeball?) And sometimes the desire to create something truly original can be the very device that hinders our creativity. (But does that mean we have to hear that Beach House song 17 times as Sophie attempts to create a dance sequence?) And, yes, sometimes the weight and scope of the world feel too immense for any one man or woman to handle. (But does that excuse a talking moon? Though it's a narrator cat and an anthropomorphized T-shirt where you might draw the line.)
As a storyteller, July has something. She has the ability to blindside her audience with a stunning moment every now and again. But by and large, it's all feelings for the sake of feelings and nothingness for the sake of nothingness. It's Beach House and First World problems. Then again, Beach House's catalog certainly has its moments, and we have to complain about something here in the First World. Here's hoping that, in the future, July will tell a story in which she doesn't feel the need to couch the whole picture in a somewhat labored quirkiness.