Future, The (US - DVD R1)
Jonathan takes a look at the DVD of Miranda July's second feature film..
Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are like many couples in their 30s: They live in a cramped apartment, have jobs they hate and are just learning what it means to be an adult. But when they decide to adopt an injured cat, the couple is hit head-on with a panicked sense of responsibility. With just one month left to themselves, how hsould Sophie and Jason spend their fleeting freedom: Surrender themsevles to fate and quit their jobs? Tune out their dreams and embrace suburbia? Reeling through their options, the couple finds themselves facing the beginning of adulthood, or the beginning of a very big problem. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)
The Future began as a small scale stage piece that Miranda July performed in 2007. It's easy to envision this, as the subject is extremely personal and the presentation is modest. The idea originated from a breakup that July was going through while she was making her first film, Me and You and Everyone We Know. If you've seen that film, you know full well just how odd her filmmaking can be. The Future is no exception, but instead of functioning as a dark comedy, it's more of an exploration of abstract ideas about modern relationships and the passageway into adulthood. It takes the tropes behind most films about romantic longing or couples going through dramatic situations, but it plays with them in an infectiously weird way that sucked me in. She uses whimsy and strange fantasy elements as interesting metaphors for the subjects of her plot. The injured cat mentioned in the plot synopsis also narrates the film (voiced by July), and serves as an allegory for the couples "injured" relationship itself. At first I was a bit put off by the tacky puppetry (which is deliberate and straight from the original performance) and just the sheer weirdness of it, but the more I thought about it, the more it worked.
The cat isn't the only unusual presence in The Future. There's also a crawling shirt, a talking moon, and some shifts in time. At first glance these could be dismissed as empty ploys to make the movie more quirky and indie, but July is much smarter than that. What these odd things mean to the characters, and how they are used to explore conflicts, is fascinating and completely unique. They give a real gravity and eerieness to things that would otherwise feel insignificant. As you can probably imagine, all these strange elements make it difficult to connect with the characters. The dry approach and bare dialogue keep the characters and their emotional states at arm's length. It feels intentional. These characters seem like archetypes from other movies boiled down to their most basic form, but their struggles and insecurities are something we all go through so there is still something to relate to. If you need fleshed out characters and the ability to connect to them, this movie probably isn't for you. I'm sure some will find it too weird for it's own good, or just straight up boring. It's best viewed as an abstract art piece, and if you can meet it on those terms then you're bound to find a rewarding experience waiting for you.
As far as I can tell, there is no Blu-ray release scheduled for the The Future, but that hasn't stopped the studio from delivering a solid transfer for its standard definition release. The film features mostly drab interiors without much colour, so it isn't a particuarly vibrant image, but it's an intentional look that complements the story perfectly. Colours mostly consist of a yellow-green balance, typically with something red in the frame to counter it and stick out. Aside from some very infrequent haloing and the blockiness that comes with watching an upscaled DVD, there is one scene where plenty of problems are evident. There's an extended sequence that takes place in a dark room and you can spot some weird horizontal lines and visible blocking throughout parts of the picture. If not for these darker scenes, there wouldn't be much to complain about. It is still very watchable and wasn't enough to distract me from what was happening in the story.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track that comes with The Future is a fine complement to the strong transfer. Dialogue levels are a non-issue. The main voices are kept front and center while the cat's particuarly odd voice is a bit more spread out and layered with interesting effect. Rear channels aren't used for any major purposes aside from background noises like the chirping of birds outside or a gentle breeze, but the subject matter never demands more surround effect than that. The melancholy soundtrack from Jon Brion ( I Heart Huckabees, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is a highlight, both in the film and in regards to the audio track. It maintains lingering somber tones that befit the characters without ever becoming dull or tiresome. In a few scenes the score has a very commanding and ominous presence, and the LFE channel appropriately kicks in to help drive the effect home. It's a stellar audio track given the format and content at hand.
Things kick off with an Audio Commentary with Miranda July. This movie was incredibly personal for July, and it's awesome to hear the meaning behind a lot of the smaller things in the movie. She spends a lot of time explaining what things symbolize and how certain elements of the script came to be. Apparently she has a shirt that functions like a security blanket for her, much like the character she plays in the movie. If you've already seen the movie and have processed your thoughts on it, this track is a great way of checking your own interpretations against her's. Next up is Making the Future (16:27), which starts with Miranda July talking about the origins of the film. There is some footage from her orginal performance piece. It's incredibly neat to see how far it has come from it's conception. There's some interview footage with Hamish Linklater and David Warshofsky as well. Some of the informative stuff is retread of the commentary track, but it's still a breezy and interesting watch. There is a single deleted scene (03:01) titled "A Handy Tip for the Easily Distracted" that involves Miranda July's character doing some weird things with objects in her apartment. It's sort of amusing, but it's pretty clear without explanation why it didn't fit in with the rest of the film. Finally, there is a theatrical trailer on the disc.
I like Miranda July and I like The Future. Its deliberate oddness and abstract presentation prevent it from being very accessible, but there's a wealth of interesting ideas and astute observations about relationships waiting for those who give it a chance. I hope we don't have to wait four more years to see what she comes up with next. Lionsgate hasn't scheduled a Blu-ray release for the film as of the time I'm writing this, but this DVD has a fairly good video track and an immersive audio presentation. There's also a decent offering of extras.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 29th November 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Star Miranda July, "Making The Future", Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, Deleted Scene, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Miranda July
Cast: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky
Length: 91 minutes
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