Tropic Sprockets / Some Kind of Heaven
By Ian Brockway
With touches of Carl Hiaasen, Lance Oppenheim directs an eerie and masterful documentary, “Some Kind of Heaven.” A portrait of life in The Villages, the retirement community located in Central Florida. The documentary is striking, colorful, enigmatic and brisk. Its ultra-saturated colors and diagonal slicing shadows cut across the screen like a suspense film.
Director Oppenheim spent thirty days around The Villages, and lived with rodeo clowns to prepare for the film. He used the kitschy style of Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl as a model in direction as well as Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands.”
Weekends in The Villages are always sunny-blue, vibrant and clear. Even though it is a retirement community, there is no apparent cause for stress, anxiety or the dark raven call of the Grim Reaper. Residents are released from the judgments of their former lives, now free to explore a second life experience, a new teenage era or even a second childhood. Every aspect of living from dining to recreation and daily activities are self-contained within the grounds.
There is no need to venture out.
Here, we meet Reggie, a seemingly mild mannered man interested in esoteric religion. There is Barbara, a widower who works as a receptionist. Dennis Dean is an octogenarian kid at heart who seems always ready for a party. Lynn is a Jimmy Buffett devotee who goes by the name of Mr. Margarita.
But along these green lawns and spotless sidewalks things are more opaque than they appear. Reggie is under a delusion that he is immortal; he punches himself and snorts cocaine. Barbara is unfulfilled by the compulsory glee of the community and bored. Dennis has no means or ambition; he only lusts for a wealthy woman to take care of his reckless leisure pursuits. Lynn has not much thought of the future.
Under the director’s eye, this is the territory of J.G. Ballard. The blazing sky of The Villages contains many shadows.
The most striking element of this documentary is that it will challenge conventional ideas of what it means to be retired. A rebellious spirit has no age limit. The Id of the aging is hereby unleashed and the result may depress or shock some viewers. Within one’s ballroom cha-cha is another’s predatory two-step.
“Some Kind of Heaven” is unapologetically quirky. Frequently deadpan but with a sprinkle of humor from All Hallows Eve, this documentary is a kind of super realistic expose of all things that are hidden by the sun’s summer rays.
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