Some Kind of Heaven (2020)

Written by:
Toba Singer
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In the unlikely event that there’s an overabundance of merriment in your life under COVID, and nobody in your pod is complaining enough, you might want to see “Some Kind of Heaven.” It’s Darren Arnofsky’s latest exploration of middle-class alienation, this one directed by Lance Oppenheim, with no less than the New York Times as a co-producer.

The operative nostrum is that a mid-rise gated community keeps undesirables out and their betters ensconced in a lifestyle aping that of the rich and famous, albeit communally. If you grew up in the Bronx in the 1950s, think Shorehaven Beach Club on steroids, year-round, but in Central Florida, for the over-55 set. Add a pinch of airbrushed fairy dust to mask the flies in the zinc ointment, and you’ve pretty much got the picture.

All seems freakishly copacetic in opening aerial shots. They pan across a movie-set/Little Boxes-like strip of real estate bisected by public boulevards, which 51,442 residents call home. You resist flashing  on a nearby Jimmy-Jones-Jamestown scenario. Have compliant residents playing at Kindergarten exercises baldly aimed at improving eye-hand coordination already downed the Kool-Aid? Or Is there still time to run for the border (on the chance that Taco Bell is favored with a piece of the action  within the gates of this SimCity knockoff)?

Identical facial expressions are date-stamped “resignation” on a cohort of women residents, all co-generationally named Elaine. They seem to be saying, “I’m smiling because I’m supposed to. I know I’m better than to let them patronize me and help themselves to my life savings at the same time.” After all the ginned-up joy of boot camp water sports, miniature golf, and Margaritas thrown down to scored golden oldies and fusion lounge music, we finally meet the Jeremiad whose Lamentations are recorded on camera, as well as in the resident pastor’s notebook. His nondenominational Christian church is the court of last resort for the truly done in.

One of them is a recent widow who is still working while suffering the worst variant of loneliness. It pierces through conga-lines of partygoers to pinion her most vulnerable self and torment it with past memories of a more reality-based  pre-Villages existence. Her face shows signs of acute cognitive dissonance.

Another is a gatecrasher who lives in his RV because he is broke and wanted by the law in three states. In his younger iteration, he was Larry the Lounge Lizard, the life-long parasite and past master at the gigolo lifestyle, living off the inheritances and life savings of women with a jones for being used and then discarded. Dressed for success in sporty shorts and Hawaiian shirts, with the requisite gold chain that screams “grifter,” he weaponizes his phone, chatting up old flames and past besties to defend against the impending fusillade.

There’s a couple who seem compatible enough, until it dawns on you that the husband isn’t your garden-variety blow-hard narcissist, but a full-out delusional self-demolition expert. The question that hangs in the air is, “How far along the “my way” road is his perfectly sane wife of 40+ years willing to accompany him?”

You meet the family that conceived of and built The Villages back in the 1970s. They recount its history as if it were a delightful gambol down memory lane.  Actually, it’s the platform they’ve conscientiously built to bilk people with nothing left but the income cushion that keeps them feeling respectable. The Villages people target these seniors for their hollowed-out vessel, where a hallowed one was imagined. Without it, they face the prospect of a last hurrah minus an echo chamber, or dying without glimpsing their own reflection one last time in an Olympic-sized pool.

See it if you’re curious about how to market mediocrity to those pining for Golden Years rewards at their own imagined Mar-a-Lago, but instead ending up as Prisoners of Zenda. Otherwise, maybe use the time to phone a local carpenter for a bid on installing a walk-in bathtub, and a wheelchair ramp where your stairs are now.

Toba Singer

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