Sunday, January 3, 2021

Retirement paradise--as seen by folk for whom it's not: Lance Oppenheim's Florida-set doc, SOME KIND OF HEAVEN

Said to be the largest retirement community in the entire USA, The Villages, located in central Florida, is made up of mostly white, Republican and relatively affluent seniors. Oddly, even though this community is so often in the news, especially regarding its support for Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, the new documentary, SOME KIND OF HEAVEN, directed by Lance Oppenheim, completely, willfully ignores politics. There's nary a mention of this hugely divisive part of our current and long-running landscape anywhere in its 83 minutes. 

Instead Mr. Oppenheim, shown at left, after opening his film with short scenes of The Villages' classes in everything from rowing to exercise to dance -- these all exert more than a whiff of Nazi-like extreme ("You vill enjoy and excel at this!") -- concentrates almost entirely on four people, only three of whom are actual residents of The Villages. The fourth, a down-on-his-luck fellow named Dennis Dean (below) lives out of his van, which he parks illegally in The Villages then spends his days trying to meet and connect with wealthy female residents who might take him in and keep him in the style to which he would like to become accustomed. (To his deluded credit, Dennis is very up-front about all this.)

We also meet a sad lady named Barbara (below), fairly recently widowed and seemingly unable to meet or connect with a new man, even though she gamely keeps trying. It is easy to understand why she is unhappy in this "paradise." 

Perhaps equally unhappy, due less to The Villages itself and more to each other, is a couple in which the husband is something of a drug addict/dreamer of whom the much more grounded wife must take constant care, whether hubby is simply getting high or going to court for cocaine possession. Around this point, you may ask yourself, as did I, "Out of the thousands and thousands of folk who live in The Villages, why the fuck did the director pick these people to highlight?"

Well, my guess is that Mr. Oppenheim was not remotely interested in The Villages community per se (we don't learn much more about it than we might about any of the many retirement communities that dot the state of Florida and exist across the rest of the country), but rather he was interested in the idea of if and how the aged can find any "happiness" at the end of the road. 

Fair enough question. But a pretty poor choice of subjects to learn much more of an answer than, "Well, probably not." Which is what you might expect from a very young filmmaker -- and a bunch of critics who are mostly young-to-middle-aged (the film so far rates 100% on Rotten Tomatoes).  

I don't mean to suggest that Some Kind of Heaven is not interesting or enjoyable. It often is one or the other and sometimes both. But TrustMovies himself lives in a Florida retirement village (Century Village, Boca Raton) that, while it has things in common with The Villages, seems utterly elsewhere by comparison to this documentary. Scratch a little deeper into the life any senior citizen and, yes, you'll likely find as much sorrow as joy. But Some Kind of Heaven, via its choice of subjects, makes certain that the negativity is ladled out a little too heavily. It simply tells its audience what that audience already thinks it knows.

From Magnolia Pictures and running 83 minutes, the documentary opens here in Florida this Friday, January 8, at the following theaters (it opens just about everywhere else across the country the following Friday, January 15): 
In FT MYERS/NAPLES: Paragon Pavilion/Naples, Silverspot/Naples JACKSONVILLE: Epic 16/St. Augustine, Epic 14/Palm Coast 
In MIAMI/FT LAUDERDALE: Cinema Paradiso/Hollywood, Savor Cinema/Fort Lauderdale, Paragon Ridge/Davie, Silverspot/Coconut Creek, Silverspot/Miami, Cobb Cinebistro at Cityplace Doral, Cobb Cinebistro at Dolphin Mall, CMX Brickell City Center/Miami, Miami Lakes 17/Miami Lakes, iPic Luxury Cinemas/North Miami Beach 
In ORLANDO/DAYTONA: Festival Bay Orlando, Cobb Plaza Café Orlando, Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk Kissimmee, Epic 16 Clermont, Epic 12 Mount Dora, Epic Ocala, Reilly Arts Center Ocala (1/28, 1/30 – 1/31), Oaks Melbourne, Cinema World West Melbourne, Merritt Square 16 Merritt Island, Epic West Volusia 12 Deltona, Cobb Daytona Luxury Daytona. 
In TALLAHASSEE: CMX Fallschase 14 
In TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG: CMX Cinebistro at Hyde Park/Tampa, Tyrone Luxury 10/St. Petersburg, Countryside 12 Clearwater, Xscape/Riverview, Lakeside Village 18 Lakeland, Studio Movie Grill/Seminole, Touchstar Cinema Spring Hill 8/Spring Hill 
In SARASOTA:CMX Cinebistro Siesta Southgate 7 
And in  WEST PALM BEACH: Cinemark Palace 20/Boca Raton, iPic Luxury Cinemas Mizner Park/Boca Raton, iPic Luxury Cinemas, Delray Beach, CMX Cinemas Wellington/Wellington, CMX Downtown at the Gardens/Palm Beach Gardens, Cinepolis Jupiter, Cinema World/Vero Beach, Touchstar Cinema Sabal Palms, Fort Pierce.

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