The Planters is written, directed, produced, and stars Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder. Kotcheff is reclusive, air conditioner telemarketer Martha Plant. Martha is also what she has termed a “planter.” She buys little knickknacks from an antique store and buries them in the surrounding desert. She uploads the coordinates, and the lucky person who finds the treasure leaves a few dollars in the tin and reburies it.
One day, Leder’s Saide literally crashes into Martha’s life. Sadie was just released from a mental health care facility, which is closing due to a lack of funding. While Martha does not necessarily like people, she’s not heartless, so she decides Sadie can stay with her. In order to not be too much of a burden, Sadie becomes Martha’s assistant. She helps sell the air conditioners and is taught how to plant the treasures.
“ Between a tight deadline for her telemarketing job, taking care of Sadie, and a burgeoning relationship with Richard, will Martha have the time to find the culprit behind the thefts?”
The two unlikely friends find a smooth day-to-day rhythm. However, Martha’s life is once again turned upside down when Richard (Phil Parolisi), a person she’s talked on the phone, unexpectedly shows up, and she discovers that someone has been stealing her plants. Between a tight deadline for her telemarketing job, taking care of Sadie, and a burgeoning relationship with Richard, will Martha have the time to find the culprit behind the thefts?
Kotcheff and Leder have a very distinct and unique vision for The Planters. However, it leads to the only real problem with the film. Everything here is pitched at such an idiosyncratic level that reality is left far behind. Now, in the best films of this ilk, such as the works of Wes Anderson, or Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, they are able to ground the absurd so that the dramatic reveals still have weight. Here though, as spirited and fun as the characters are, and as fantastic as the actors may be, the drama is more forced than organic.
Take, for example, the late in the game reveal of a specific side character and his tragic connection to Martha. While the particular circumstances surrounding this event are humorous, the end result should have been a big revelation and gut punch to the audience. As is, the scene plays out a bit stale due to a lack of potency.