Posted by martinteller on June 13, 2015
Sophie (Miranda July, also writing and directing) teaches dance to children. Jason (Hamish Linklater) works from home doing tech support. The two live together, four years into a comfortable relationship. They come across an injured cat, who they name Paw-Paw (voiced by July) and take to the vet They want to adopt Paw-Paw, but he’s been diagnosed with kidney failure. He needs another month in the hospital, and after that will require diligent care. Foreseeing a future shackled with responsibility while their dreams fade away, they quit their jobs and follow their impulses. Jason signs up with an environmental organization, selling trees door-to-door. Sophie attempts to make a new YouTube dance video every day, but fails, instead entering an affair.
July’s first feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, felt lightweight but was enjoyable both because of and despite its quirkiness (it also is the source of one of the more memorable cards in “Cards Against Humanity”). Six years later, she delivers a disappointing sophomore film. These two main characters are in their mid-30’s but act at least 10 years younger. They’re mired in the sort of Gen-X slackerism that most of us left behind long ago. They talk to each other in an annoyingly affected manner that suggests they’re somewhere on the autism spectrum. July says she hasn’t had a day job since she was 23… this script indicates that she’s still stuck at that age.
Some of it comes off like unconvincing shorthand. See how these people belong together because they have the same haircut. Love them because they’re so whimsical and sensitive. But they’re stunted in their growth. They can’t seem to handle anything. I couldn’t make myself care about them, except hoping they didn’t procreate and make more people just like them. Of course, that’s highly unlikely, considering how daunted they are by the responsibility of caring for a sick cat.
Surprisingly, among the movie’s many quirks, the narrating cat is one of the more palatable ones. “Paw-Paw” provides the only truly affecting moments, and more than anything I hoped that he would be okay. There’s a magic realism turn late in the film, one that serves as both a reasonably effective metaphor for depression and as a sort of relationship crisis wish-fulfillment. And there is at least one good laugh in the movie (“I think that’s racist”). It’s mostly just the two main characters who ruin everything. The quiet panic in their eyes, their kooky banter, their lack of direction… none of it is endearing. July’s film succeeds in its bold strokes, but fails in crafting sympathetic people to work with. Rating: Poor (56)