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July tells a slightly different story.
"I remember reading Beginners a few times before I was really in my own [screenwriting phase], and then being, like, 'Oh, whoa, I don't think I should keep reading this because I gotta be in my own world.' And we both kind of agreed on that, that, like, to pull this off, we'd have to be more private."
When I say it seems that nonetheless there are some similarities between the two films, July nods. "Yeah, for sure. I mean, I'm amazed there's not more. I hadn't read [his] script in years when we were both kind of 'go,' you know? And I remember, because we have the same agent, I emailed my agent, saying, 'You know what, you're the only one who's read both our scripts. Can you tell me right now if there's anything that's going to be really bad that we both did?' And there was actually one scene — his stayed in, and mine I cut out after I shot it — that I thought was a little, like, similar, and revealing about us, because it was like something from our life. I won't say what it is."
But she maintains that it's not the relationship that colors the work so much as that their individual interests, aesthetics and instincts led to the relationship. "Occasionally we get into, like, 'Well, where did this come from, this thing?' We both have evidence from before we met that we were into that thing. And that's why we came together. That's why we like each other."
When "Eleven Heavy Things" opens to the public on a Saturday evening in late July, Mills, wearing a beard and a Western hat like the Jesse James of Silver Lake, laughs with friends as his wife runs around, gamely posing with her pieces for rabid fans with cameras, most of them youngish women. She seems bubbly and hyper "on." It is the only art opening I've ever been to where there's no booze. Instead, there's an ice cream truck.
But wait, it gets twee-er: I can't resist chatting to a tall, lanky young man wearing a handmade unicorn suit. He hands me a business card with the name "Lemonade 'Unicorn' Steiny." (He swears "Lemonade" is his given name.) I ask him why he's here, wearing a unicorn suit, and he answers only the first half of the question. "I think Miranda's work is awesome, just across the board," he gushes. "It's about human experience. It forces people to get together and share things and be, like, 'This is awkward!' "
I ask him if having a horn on his head is an impediment to "sharing."
"It can be. People die. But it's part of my job."
What else is part of your "job"?
"Demystifying my culture."
I'm there with someone I've just started dating. He and I stand underneath the pink cloud and are suddenly swarmed by onlookers armed with cameras. Miranda joins the crowd, beaming at us, and jokes, "You know that this means you're legally married." The forced intimacy of the scene reveals Lemonade's, uh, critique, to be spot-on, and at the same time, it's a powerful practical demonstration of July's key preoccupations — the piece that isn't complete until it pushes the spectator to perform, the rush of fame that confuses attention and love. It's also the kind of heightened moment that The Future is full of: contrived, hyperreal and unshakably, emotionally true.
And this, I realize, is the sly miracle of Miranda July and her work: She begs to be written off as a pretentiously precocious, delusional woman-child whose work is chiefly interested in what the Twitterati would brand as #firstworldproblems, whose prototypical uber-fan wears a unicorn suit. And yet everything she does is so guileless and direct, her affectations so often giving way to an ability to find the vulnerabilities in the average armor of cynicism. She sees your jaded defense mechanisms and renders them mundane. She dares you to roll your eyes. She knows the tougher you want to pretend you are, the harder you'll be hit when that fucking talking cat breaks your heart.
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