Ask me if I'd like to see a precious movie that includes a narrating cat, a talking moon and a heroine that greets her boyfriend in the morning with 'Hello, person,' and I will likely leave in my wake a wisp of smoke and a Roadrunner-shaped hole in the cinema wall.
But whatever the precocious leanings of Miranda July's "The Future," the film resonates primarily for its journey away from simple, irritating quirk, and toward originality of a more substantial kind.
"The Future," the second film of director-writer-actor and performance artist July following 2005's "Me and You and Everyone We Know," ultimately wins you over with its persistent curiosity. It matches glances at commonplace details with the tug of metaphysical confusion.
The movie begins with the voice of a cat named Paw-Paw (voiced by July). In a scratchy, fragile voice, it wonders, "Have you ever been outside?"
Rooted to their sofa and tethered to their laptops, the earnest, thirty-something couple Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) treat "outside" as merely an option worth avoiding, like non-Apple products. Lounging next to each other, the two, both lanky and topped by shaggy dark hair, look like mops carelessly stored.
In Los Angeles, Sophie teaches dance and Jason gives IT support by phone. They're planning to adopt Paw-Paw, but have to wait a month. This acceptance of responsibility (something of a furry stand-in for a child) sets off an early midlife crisis.
By their anxious calculations, their lives will soon begin deteriorating. After 50, Jason says, it's just "loose change." Regret is massing; he says, "I always thought I'd be smarter."
Faced with the onset of cat ownership (which is to say, death), they resolve to live the month like their last. They quit their jobs and, terror of all terrors, cut the Internet.
Another movie, from here, might go on to celebrate maintaining a childlike naivety through adulthood, of rising above the mundane with whimsy. But in "The Future," whimsy stands little chance against time's relentless march.
Jason begins volunteering for a tree-growing charity, Tree-by-Tree, and goes door-to-door for donations. He meets an old man, Joe (Joe Putterlik, also the voice of the moon), whose thoughts on life - both peculiar and wise - attract him. Joe advises that Jason's alarmist sense of time is off: "You're just in the middle of the beginning right now."
Sophie's chosen path is to create a daily YouTube video with a new dance. But her body is unable to contort to the hip-hop moves that go viral, and her boredom turns to an unlikely love interest (David Warshofsky). The father of a young girl and a factory-owner, he's emphatically more normal than Sophie - and perhaps that's his appeal.
These mixed results of Sophie and Jason's self-enforced trial is shown in variously mystical expressions: The moon talks, an emotionally significant T-shirt travels on its own and Jason attempts to stop time. The dreamy music by Jon Brion adds to the sad, enchanted tone.
These magical flourishes come alongside more prosaic observations, like the feel of a couch's felt. There's a childlike sense of wonder, but it's the adultness of "The Future" that makes it rise above.
July, with her Chaplin eyes, perhaps knows too well how to play earnest and smart. But "The Future" feels progressively less adorned, even as it grows more magical. Hardship, fear, anxiety and death set it, and narcissism burns away. New worlds are explored, even if they're just down the street. Pain proves far more preferable than utter stasis.
It's a fancy feast. Cut the talking cat, next time, though.
The Roadside Attractions release is rated R for some sexual content. Running time: 91 minutes.