Harold Schwartz is the founder of The Villages, a senior community in Florida. He recounts a story of the developers asking him a question. They ask the story behind The Villages. And he answers that the villagers move there because they found the fountain of youth. Cue archive footage of constructed fountains that are probably still standing today, four decades after the developers built those fountains. The Villages, pardon the cliché, is kind of like America and its mythologies. And Lance Oppenheim’s Some Kind of Heaven uniquely deconstructs those myths.
The documentary investigates the Villages’ macrostructure occasionally, but it mostly captures four Village residents who have their paper-thin myths. The first two are a couple, Anne and Reggie Kincer, a relatively happy couple. That’s until Reggie’s drug use turns into a bump in their relationship. The third and most forthcoming subject is Barbara Locchiato. She works full time but is looking for things to do during the weekend. She, spoilers, eventually finds her fit with an acting class where she delivers a Jessica Lange monologue. There are also other scenes where seniors dance to “Blurred Lines”, oblivious to the song’s problems. It feels like it’s giving these seniors in 2019 too much credit for knowing cool things that happened in 2013. But it’s more recent than some prejudiced viewers like yours truly might expect.
Then there’s Dennis Dean who tries to pass himself off as a playboy, driving by the community in his van. A lesser film would have made fun of him and the place’s excessive amount of palm trees. However, sympathetically looking into the lives of the Villagers is a better strategy in deconstructing this boomer bubble. One of the documentary’s climatic scenes involve Dennis calling up old friends to bail him out. This is a nightmare scenario for millennials who don’t have their lives together and assume that with age comes stability. The documentary doesn’t condemn these people for the lies they’re telling themselves. But it does prove the old adage that heaven is a mind state.
This review mentions macrostructure and manufactured flora and fauna. And those pop up in Some Kind of Heaven, expertly pepper its more personal storylines with fascinating B-roll. One scene has a man feeding what looks like a dark camel within a fenced grassland. The documentary doesn’t emphasise the surreal ridiculousness of that visual. Perhaps its one of the many symbols here of The Villages’ one kind of inclusivity. The community needs as many things to entertain its many citizens. Although this everything-ness doesn’t make The Villages seem desperate.
Some Kind of Heaven‘s underhanded approach normalizes Florida, an otherwise abnormal state. There’s the usual filmic techniques here with thei equally usual twists. There come the slow motion scenes to indicate show ts subjects’ alienation from their fellow seniors. Or interview scenes with couples who show less of a united front than one of them expected. There’s also an open ended-ness here too. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the documentary doesn’t present a final product. It’s more like it dangles enough curiousity for viewers to make its subject stick.
Watch Some Kind of Heaven at https://www.hotdocs.ca/.
- Rated: PG
- Genre: documentary
- Release Date: 2/19/2021
- Directed by: Lance Oppenheim
- Produced by: Darren Aronofsky, Jeffrey Soros, Kathleen Lingo, Pacho Velez, Simon Horsman
- Studio: 30WEST, Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF), Protozoa Pictures, The New York Times
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