Greetings again from the darkness. Thanks to her 2005 debut film Me and You and Everyone We Know, I became a fan of Miranda July. Unfortunately that means reading a few of her short stories and waiting six years for her second (and equally independent) film. There is no rushing a creative genius, and there is certainly no obvious goal for capitalistic gains. With her second film, it appears she will somehow generate even fewer viewers, despite being a festival favorite.
The movie is bookended by the narration of Paw-Paw, an injured cat waiting to be adopted by Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater). In the cat’s voice we hear the hope of a new life – one that includes love and security. Things aren’t quite the same from the perspective of our two heroes.
Sophie and Hamish are in many ways a typical couple. They sometimes speak their own language and when things are going good, they believe they can conquer all. However, hitting a bump means much doubt and and an avalanche of self-defeatist attitudes. The latest bump is the belief that adopting this cat will suck the freedom right out of their daily lives … in fact, they discuss the fact that because of their age (35), life and dreams are basically over. So, with 30 days til adoption, they seek to live life to the fullest. You know, before it’s all over.
They both quit the jobs that have evidently been the burden keeping them from greater purpose. Jason works from home as an IT Help Desk agent and Sophie is the world’s absolute worst dance instructor for kids. Jason tries to find meaning by selling trees to save the environment. Sophie decides to make youtube videos – 30 Dances in 30 Days, but with mounting pressure, ends up under the bed covers before even one video is complete.
These two remind me of 8 year olds with advanced vocabularies. Somehow they think society or the universe owes them something and just by dreaming big, their lives will be complete. They each believe they have special powers: Sophie can move things with her mind (not really) and Jason can stop time (not sure). We see Jason fall under the spell of the most interesting character in the film – an octogenarian played by Joe Putterlik. We see Sophie fall into bed with Marshall (David Warshofsky), a 50ish single dad living in the suburbs.
So here is some of what the film offers us: a slacker couple in a rundown apartment, same couple overwhelmed by the burden of adopting a cat, a crawling security blanket (t-shirt) that stalks its owner, a narrating cat, an empty affair with a mis-matched couple, an old man philosopher and his dirty-talk greeting cards, a discussion with the moon (yes, the moon), a young girl (wonderful Isabella Acres) who buries herself in the backyard with the approval of her dad, and (twice) the terrific Peggy Lee song “Where or When”.
Ms. July is married to filmmaker Mike Mills, who is responsible for this year’s terrific Beginners. She is a fabulous observer of life and people and personalities. She seems to understand doubts and dreams, and carries an interest in what time lapse really means for us. Her manner of making these points and sharing her insight is quite off-beat from what we typically see in movies. I believe that makes it most important that she continue to produce her works. Unlike what I will say about her character in this film, The Future looks awfully bright for Miranda July.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are a fan of Miranda July OR you just want to tell your friends that you have seen a movie where the narrator is a re-habbing cat named Paw-Paw.
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you rolled your eyes even once while reading the next to last paragraph in my review
watch the trailer: