Tuesday, February 12, 2013

(Almost) No Exit

Visioneers is one of those at once heartening and depressing films because all you can think about when it's over is what it could have been. It could've been so much meaner, so much funnier, so much more true.

Because it gets closer to all of those things than anything else out these days. It presents a very familiar dystopia - the white-collar office world and suburbia. Being nice to people you hate all day long to a soundtrack of upbeat propaganda, only to come home to a sexless marriage and bad TV.

And whatever the hell this is...

And Visioneers does all of that brilliantly, up to a point. Oddly, where it falters is in the comic exaggerations - people great each other with company slogans and the company salute, a gratuitous and eventually pointless middle finger. They're asigned huge teddy bears to simulate affection and are expected to record such for marketing purposes. And they get the bears in the first place because there's an epidemic of people up and exploding.

Visioneers can't decide if it's an annihilating satire or a slapstick farce. It could be either, as evidenced frequently by the crushing doldrums of the protagonist's daily life and by some great asides, like a show about some mulleted '80s Action Hero with a porn 'stache who beats up old ladies for freedom. But it's trying to be both which just doesn't work. And nowhere is that more obvious than in casting Zach Galifinakis in the lead.

Galifinakis isn't a bad actor but he's a very particular actor. He works best as the unhinged foil like in The Hangover or like in every other film he's ever done. Making him the Everyman center of Visioneers not only doesn't fit, it curtails his good qualities even in the dream sequences where he's George Washington.

...No, I'm still trying to figure out the first picture.

And there's hope. It defies the logic the film builds over its entire run, but Visioneers ends on a hopeful note. That we can escape this poshlost nightmare world by getting in touch with ourselves and with each other and some other hippie self-actualization crap. To borrow a sentiment from Hunter Thompson, it just didn't get mean enough for me.

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