February 19, 2012 -- This strange film reminds me of some stories by Franz Kafka, such as “The Trial.” It is a story which makes no sense when viewed objectively, but hangs together well enough as a subjective experience. Cats think, even after they are dead, a man has the power to stop time, a t-shirt becomes animated and crawls through a window, a child digs her own grave as a place to hang out in the back yard. These are some of the weird things that happen in this movie.
Writer-director Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”) stars in this film as both the human Sophie and the cat Paw Paw. Sophie and her husband, Jason (played by Hamish Linklater of “The New Adventures of Old Christine” TV series) go to the animal shelter to adopt Paw Paw, but are told the cat can't be picked up for a month because it has to recover from an operation. Worse yet, they are told the cat may actually live several years, instead of the six months they expected the sick animal to survive. They pet Paw Paw and she purrs. Paw Paw is excited and looks forward to the day when she can be a pet in Sophie and Jason's home.
Sophie and Jason are not excited. They panic because Paw Paw has suddenly become a responsibility that could last for years. Sophie, a children's dance instructor, and Jason, who does technical support over an internet phone, feel like this commitment to Paw Paw will end any chance they have at doing something significant with their lives. The years will pass them by and they will be stuck in their current dead-end jobs forever. But they do have a month before the adoption date, a month to break free, so they do. They quit their jobs and decide to do something meaningful.
Jason becomes an environmental activist, selling trees door to door to fight global warming. Sophie decides to do a creative dance a day for 30 days and post the dances on the internet. These pursuits, however, don't work out as planned. They aren't as fulfilling as they hoped they would be. Sophie finds no inspiration for her 30 dances and Jason finds mostly indifference and rejection in his attempts to sell trees.
Sophie goes completely off the map, calling a stranger, Marshall (David Warshofsky of “Taken”) with whom she has an affair after some very odd phone conversations. Marshall has a daughter, Gabriella (Isabella Acres), who digs a hole in the back yard and stays in it for a time. Sophie eventually takes care of her. Gabriella can be viewed as the parental responsibility that Paw Paw represents to Sophie and Jason. That responsibility repelled them as freedom's end. Sophie takes the leap to motherhood, while Jason stays behind. It ends badly for Jason and Paw Paw.
This is a strange and disturbing film. It seems to say that there is nothing in life beyond the urge to reproduce. No meaning, no fulfillment, only darkness. It does speak of an afterlife, however, a light that goes on and on. That is something. There is a sequence in the film about time stopping, only time doesn't really stop. The moon stops in the sky, the waves stand still on the beach, people and cars all stop for Jason in his desperate attempt to hang on to Sophie, yet time still passes by him and Paw Paw somehow. At the same time, Sophie sees years race past her while she is stuck in a job that is even worse than the one she had before. Like I said, a strange, disturbing film. I especially don't like the way poor Paw Paw is treated. This film rates a B.
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