Friday, October 7, 2011

Visioneers (2008)

     What the hell was that?  Is that the right reaction to Visioneers (2008)?
     Director Jared Drake and writer Brandon Drake craft a wonderful take on the dystopian setting, not making it dark, rainy, or polluted.  Instead, all of the disconnection with the world comes from within.  It is a world where being soulless has become the norm, and is also somehow virtuous.  At the same time, there is a desperation to embrace all of the vapidity that promises a selfless, pain free existence.  And all of that is compelling.
     What doesn't work is the supposed story to go with it.  Zach Galifianakis, Missi Pyle (who I truly don't appreciate enough as an actor), D.W. Moffett (who doesn't get enough work), James LeGros, and Judy Greer are all compelling in a strange, disaffected way.  Galifianakis especially gets to do more with less – far different than the manic, improbable performances films like Due Date (2010) or The Hangover (2009) – but is undercut by the story having little to do with anything relating to the battle to conquer everything that makes people human.  Likewise, LeGros' character arc is woefully under-served, though it brings one of the best background shots in modern cinema.
     I would wager that the Drakes were inspired by the mad visual scribblings that Terry Gilliam has offered in films like Brazil (1985) and Time Bandits (1981).  The problem is that Gilliam's films typically lack a sense of coherence; he partially overcomes this with wit (and in part by having scenes so strong that they are more enjoyable because of their disconnection from the supposed greater story).  I would never count Gilliam as a director one should emulate, and certainly not for one's first feature film.
     It is never answered what a visioneer is, which wouldn't bother me except that it is the title of the film and the position that Galifianakis's character holds.  I liked everything else about the dark humor in the workplace, but I would have liked there to have been some explanation as to what the role of the visioneer was in eliminating the essence of a person through corporate machinations.
     I think this is a short stretched far too long, made somewhat enjoyable by a strong cast of under-appreciated actors.  I don't think it should be at the top of anyone's must see list, but I'm sure the dark humor will appeal to many.  And I made it to the end of the review before mentioning that one of the major elements of the film is that people explode.

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