However, when the film works, it is unabashedly hilarious. Shortly after Sadie has proven to be a significant boon to both enterprises, the two are digging up a recently taken plant. The manner in which Martha counts the bills that were left behind and shoves a fiver into Sadie’s face is hysterical.
The Planters has no shortage of wonderful physical comedy (Martha pounding into the dirt in a fit of rage). But, that is not the only trick up its sleeve. Leder and Kotcheff’s screenplay contains very amusing dialogue. As Martha is making calls to sell the air conditioners, her latest prospect says yes immediately, without even knowing what she’s selling nor for how much. Stunned at such an enthusiastic response, she tells the man what it is. When he is still onboard, Martha incredulously intones the price and asks why he wants. The person on the other end explains that he read that many successful people say yes to things, so he is trying to that more.
“…as much to do with the delivery of the lines, as those lines themselves.”
While such a joke isn’t exactly new, the way each party reacts and the explanation makes for a huge laugh. Of course, that has as much to do with the delivery of the lines, as those lines themselves. Alexandra Kotcheff is perfect as Martha. Martha, who has dinner conversations with her dead parents, lack of interest in people, and very candid way of speaking could come across as abrasive. But Kotcheff makes them endearingly charming.
Hannah Leder is just as great as Sadie. She eases in and out of the multiple personalities wonderfully and ably sells each one as a wholly unique person. It is her comedic sensibilities and timing that genuinely make her special here. As the 4-year old, she’s watching Richard sleep, insisting to Martha that he’s dead. Once Richard does wake and sees Sadie standing over him, he yells, which causes her to scream. The physical comedy and reaction shot of Leder yelling is uproarious.
While the more dramatic side of The Planters does not totally gel, when the movie works, it is a slice of delightfully idiosyncratic comedic genius. The cast is terrific, the screenplay is amusing, and the whole affair is immensely rewatchable.
The Planters screened at the 2019 AFI Fest.
"…pitched at such an idiosyncratic level that reality is left far behind."