Review by Sean Boelman
Anyone who lives in Florida knows that the people who live in the state can sometimes be a little bit… quirky, to put it lightly. Lance Oppenheim’s feature debut Some Kind of Heaven, produced by Darren Aronofsky, documents one such unusual community in a way that is both hilarious and insightful.
In the film, Oppenheim follows some of the residents of The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, as they go about their daily routines and get into sometimes humorous antics. Those who aren’t local to the area will likely find themselves intrigued by the almost mythical status endowed to the community, but those with firsthand knowledge will be interested in how Oppenheim peers through the façade.
The movie plays out in a way that seems almost like a commercial, the interviewees giving their sales pitches as to why living in The Villages has made their retirement into something idyllic. However, it is clear that Oppenheim is one hell of a director, because he is able to show the stark reality of how this life is not what it seems.
That said, Oppenheim is by no means direct about his messaging, perhaps because it would have been difficult to get access to the subjects had he been upfront with some of his criticism. The residents of The Villages apparently see this as the best that retired life can get, but this is also one of the wealthiest retirement communities in Florida, hence why some of the claims being made in the interviews aren’t entirely true.
Oppenheim focuses on a few different residents of The Villages, and they all add their own bit to the story. Perhaps the most interesting is the outsider character, a drifter hoping to find his way into the “Villages” lifestyle by finding love with one of the pre-existing residents. This makes for a funny and unconventional real-life romantic comedy.
Some of the other stories depicted in the film are even more out-there. The one that is most bizarre follows one of the residents as he begins to experiment with psychedelic drugs, ultimately causing him to brush up with the law. For those interested in stories of crazy old people, this movie is sure to be satisfying.
There is also a really unique visual style to the film. The cinematography is wonderful, with a dreamlike glow to it that reinforces the motif of this false paradise in which these people have decided to live the end of their lives. The score by Ali Balouzian is also excellent, having an almost hypnotic feel to it.
Some Kind of Heaven treads the fine line between earnestly and uncomfortably funny quite well. Lance Oppenheim is an exciting new voice in documentary filmmaking and managed to tell this story in a way that is surprisingly cinematic.
Some Kind of Heaven hits theaters on January 8 and VOD on January 15.