Netflix is a helluva thing. I was trying to find a movie to watch last night and couldn't decide on one. Then I notice I had a "Witty Indie Comedies" category pop up, which hadn't been there the previous day. Just a few entries into the category was a movie I had never, ever heard of, called Visioneers with a bearded man sitting at a desk for the cover art. Clicking into it, all I needed to see was "slightly futuristic black comedy" and Zach Galifianakis listed as the lead actor and I was sold.
So what is this movie? Hold onto your butts. Visioneers tells the story of George Washington Winsterhammerman, who is a Level 3 "Tunt" at the Jeffers Corporation, which is the largest company in the history of the world, employing millions. There is an epidemic sweeping the nation of people exploding. Turns out, the cause of these explosions is stress and dreaming. George has a beautiful house with a beautiful wife, but he is plagued by dreams of being our nation's first president, George Washington. The movie takes off from here, following George through this bizarre world as he tries to overcome his dreams and avoid explosion, to later escaping the boring, mundane world to which he's relegated himself.
For the entire first act, and a good portion of the second, I was all in. The film was doing a great job of selling itself as some sort of Monty Python/ Mike Judge mashup, very much in the vein of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Full disclosure: I am a Monty Python fanatic and Brazil is my favorite film. BIG SHOES TO FILL. But for that first 30-45 minutes, they were filling them. I was laughing out loud, and often. The opening scene killed me, and set the bar impossibly high for the rest of the film. George Washington Winsterhammerman comes into his office in the morning, a drab green room with terrible flourescent lighting, (think Joe's office from Joe Versus the Volcano) and flips off a poster of the head of the Jeffers Corp. Turns out this is how people greet each other in the world of Visioneers, along with "Jeffers morning!" George's coworker, Todd, comes in, they flip each other off, Todd sits down, holds a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. It doesn't fire and he goes about his work. A message blares over the loudspeakers, "There are 1200 minutes of productivity remaining until the weekend." George is notified by a Level 4 Tunt that one of his coworkers won't be coming in, as he's exploded. Another message blares "There are 1199 minutes of productivity remaining until the weekend."
I was really jazzed to be watching something so absurd and funny, as this type of comedy doesn't come around too often. Zach Galifianakis is perfect for the role of George, too. He plays it completely deadpan, and knocks it out of the park. Since The Hangover, he's been showered with praise, but this film serves as evidence to him being awesome before last year's hit comedy. The man's a power player in his own right as a comedian, but as an actor as well. The rest of the cast is equally solid. You'll recognize Judy Greer (the secretary from Arrested Development) as his possibly lesbian wife who is obsessed with a TV personality, Sahra, played by Missi Pyle (the go-to creepy-looking-yet-pretty lady in the biz). My favorite character is George's "Professional Pal" Rodger the Codger, played by Matthew Glave. His job is to motivate George and keep him from stressing out and dreaming. The workout scene where he starts by massaging him, flanked by numerous cardboard cutouts of Rodger, is simply amazing.
Office Space, and, yes, Joe Versus the Volcano. Instead of brain clouds, it's spontaneous combustion. Instead of dreams of flying high above and away from the soul-sucking corporate metropolis, it's dreams of George Washington crossing the Delaware. I just wanted to experience more of this ridiculous world and wasn't so invested in George freeing himself of it.
Visioneers is not an altogether displeasing movie in any case. It's worth streaming for the heights its first act strives for, and the genuinely hilarious characters and norms of this bizarre world. If you're more prepared than I was for the film to get serious and less funny, you may come away from it having really loved it. What is sort of astounding is this was the first feature ever from the sibling writing/directing team of Jared and Brandon Drake. Based on this film, I will be anxiously awaiting Jared's next feature, which is called Black Ops Arabesque, and involves a secret service agent who wants to be a dancer.
Worth Streaming If You Like: Absurd Comedy; Zach Galifianakis; Dystopian Futures; Pole vaulting; Ridiculous character names.
Worth Streaming If You Hate: Your terrible corporate desk job; Society; Exploding.