NOW IN THEATERS! After his successful directorial debut Thoroughbreds and the comedic Bad Education, Cory Finley returns with his third feature, the alien invasion tale Landscape With Invisible Hand. Strap in, folks! This is a weird one.
Landscape With Invisible Hand begins five years ago when Earth made first contact with an alien invader known as The Vuvv. They are a species of hyper-intelligent beings who managed to outdo human beings in commerce and technology., so much so that now humans have become irrelevant. But the altruistic aliens have not entirely given up on these creatures. Instead, they’ve managed to turn the human experience into a tourism experience.
Our story features the Campbell family: mother Beth (Tiffany Haddish), son Adam (Asante Blackk), and youngest daughter Natalie (Brooklynn MacKinzie). Because of the depressed economy, Beth struggles to provide for her children and house. In comes Chloe Marsh (Kylie Rogers), who befriends Adam and manages to move her family, father (Josh Hamilton) and brother hunter (Michael Gandolfini), into the Campbell home, much to the dismay of Beth.
To help with finances, Adam and Chloe decide to start dating and broadcast their romance over Vuvv television. At first, the couple becomes viral, garnering thousands of views, allowing both families to breathe financially. However, the novelty of the relationship and the couple’s streaming soon begin to wane. They begin to covet their privacy and thus violate the streaming contract with the Vuvv. Now suddenly thrust into massive debt due to various contract violations, Beth has to go to extreme measures to bail everyone out.
“…humans have become irrelevant…turn the human experience into a tourism experience.”
Based on the National Book Award-winning novel by M.T. Anderson, Landscape With Invisible Hand is one of the weirdest, most passive-aggressive alien invasions I’ve ever seen. This story is absolutely nuts, and I’m struggling to describe it properly. Suffice it to say that at one point, a Vuvv wants to be part of Adam’s family. Because they are in so much debt, Beth agrees… and that’s only the second act. If I didn’t know better, the futuristic world of the Vuvv ain’t that far off from where we are today, just without the alien invaders.
What Finely does so well is not only build a world that feels familiar but explores fundamental issues of class. The filmmaker also looks at the effects of social media in a way that should feel ironic yet feels all too real from a Gen-Z lens. My brain wants to wrestle with several of the themes and concepts. Speaking of world-building, the Vuvv look like Thanksgiving turkeys.
The director is juggling a lot of balls in the air. As such, Landscape with Invisible Hand is a show where unpredictability reigns supreme, and managing the odd tone could have been disastrous in less capable hands. But, like Thoroughbreds, the fun of Finley’s film is watching it unfold as it twists and zig zags to a genuinely odd ending. Haddish shines as the devoted mother who has to submit to some crazy s**t in all three acts.
Landscape With Invisible Hand is not your typical alien invasion tale. The film is quirky and unpredictable and is much more about adapting to the new normal of extraterrestrial overlords versus being an alien war movie. If you like your films a little off-kilter, then this is worth seeking out.
Landscape With Invisible Hand screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
"…quirky and unpredictable..."