In either the not-so-distant-future or, in a parallel universe, maximized productivity in the workplace has taken the place of living a fulfilling life. Especially for those chosen to work for the “Jeffers Corporation” which is a stale, stodgy, antiseptic environment where people are wished a “Jeffers morning” with a meaningful middle finger in the air as a greeting. On the third level of the Jeffers building, George Washington Winsterhammerman (Galifianakis) toils away as a “visioneer” but what he or anyone at Jeffers actually “do” is totally unclear. But whatever it is, it leads to serious stress, good and bad dreams and spontaneous exploding at an epidemic rate. And by exploding I mean one second you’re sitting there, the next….kaboom. You are no more. The monochromatic walls hold loudspeakers and digital signs that are used to remind workers how much productivity is left in the week and the company even has it’s own language and terminology. A sort of draining militaristic sweatshop, the Jeffers Corporation seems like a rotten place to work.
Brandon and Jared Drake, the newest pair of quirky, unique filmmaking brothers have created a world and a film that is unique yet gives nods to “Joe Versus the Volcano” and Steven Soderbergh’s nearly impenetrable “Schizoplis.” Yet there’s also some biting satire and social commentary at play in “Visioneers” that, along with some really well done character acting, makes for an all around interesting film. But for all of the film’s uniqueness and intrigue, I found myself wanting to truly love it more, but in the end felt kept at arms length.
Once we’re introduced to the hellhole workplace, we focus in on George as he begins to fear that he too may explode due to the fact his life is basically meaningless. Dreaming is frowned upon and in fact it’s a sign that you too may explode soon, yet George constantly dreams that he is “the” George Washington and it has him spooked. His wife Michelle (Greer) lives her life through an Oprah-like TV talk show hostess named Sara (Pyle) and adheres strictly to her advice in love, books and keys to happiness. Family life is a bore and the couple’s son never leaves his room. The only reprieve George gets is through the television and the awful, wannabe reaffirming schlock therein. Just as George slowly begins to unravel, his fully awakened brother Julieen (Le Gros) returns home due to a dream he’s had in which he’s pole-vaulting in George’s backyard. He takes up residence in the pool house and prods George to break free from the staunch lifelessness of the Jeffers Corporation, all the while improving at pole-vaulting and attracting a hippy like cult following that’s soon investigated by the FBI.
While the film is played almost too rigidly and is too bleak and straight-up odd to be really laugh-out-loud funny, it’s definitely interesting as well as being the type of film that begs another viewing. “Visioneers” is also amazingly clever. While I was put off with the insistence on using words created by the filmmakers and gestures that had no explanation, I still found myself engrossed due to the bold and nuanced performances. Galifianakis turns in an excellent straight-man performance in which the sadness in his soul slowly bubbles up as the film marches on. Greer and Pyle walk the line between satire, over the top outrageousness and grim sadness really well and all the smaller, supporting roles are terrific. In fact, I loved all of the performances in this film.
Still, I go back and forth in my mind when thinking about this film and whether or not I actually liked it. On one hand I still feel hung up on the things I didn’t get and that’s a lousy feeling because I did enjoy the cinematic experience. But on the other hand, I think I wanted to like it more than I actually did, it’s just so intriguing and different. The sadness and sorrow on display in the characters is easy to relate to. But then again, I wanted to know more about the world we are in onscreen and what the correlation between the Jeffers Corporation and the government was. I want to know why flipping someone off has become the normal salutation and I still don’t see why anyone would want to work for the Jeffers Corp. Outside the confines of the office, a real world exists and when we see George in it, he sticks out like a sore thumb. However the more he comes apart and starts to understand how meaningless his life has become, the more he comes alive and it creates a great feeling of empathy.
“Visioneers” is a fun, tricky film. As you can see, I’m having a tough time coming to terms with what I think it was trying to say. However I can’t wait to see it again and I think it could become a quite popular cult flick. If nothing else comes from “Visioneers,” I think Jared and Brandon Drake have great style and I’ll be first in line to see what they come up with next.