Asante Blackk and Tiffany Haddish star in the latest from ‘Thoroughbreds’ and ‘Bad Education’ director Cory Finley.
What would Earth’s future life be like if humans were still around but no longer in charge? The 2017 young adult novel by M.T. Anderson, Landscape With Invisible Hand, was adapted for the screen by Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds, Bad Education), and it shows a depressed society slowly disintegrating. The economy has been destroyed by tiny aliens known as “the Vuvv,” leaving the majority of people either underemployed or jobless. The affluent have already departed Earth to live “up there” with the aliens, leaving the remaining population to scavenge for what little money, land, and food there is. The Vuvv are little bureaucrats with terrible lasers instead of terrifying animals with military strength. The Vuvv are tiny bureaucrats with no sympathy for the poverty their soulless business practises have produced, not terrifying creatures with terrifying lasers and overwhelming military power.
In their enormous house, Adam (Asante Blackk) and his family are practically squatting and barely making ends meet. His mother Beth (Tiffany Haddish) is a divorced lawyer with a chip on her shoulder and a missing husband. Hopeful Natalie (Brooklynn MacKinzie), his sister, is attempting to cultivate food in their abandoned swimming pool. Additionally, William Jackson Harper, his father, left for California on business and never returned. Adam expresses how he feels about everything that is going through his head in his paintings about his life. His creative and playful work is not concerned with representing reality. And he discovers his first muse when he meets Chloe (Kylie Rogers).
Adam is so enamoured with Chloe, her brother (Michael Gandolfini), and father (Josh Hamilton), that he extends an invitation for them to move into his basement so they won’t have to be in the street. Young love at the end of the earth seems to be worth the short-term strain between the two families. The relationship between Adam and Chloe is charming and lighthearted, with Adam being the more sensitive of the two. In a culture that no longer has time for it, he longs for normalcy. However, Chloe enters into a business agreement with Adam that significantly raises the stakes of their relationship as she becomes more concerned for the survival of her family.
Since sex and romance are taboo topics among their extraterrestrial superiors, they find human dating to be fascinating. Chloe and Adam start a “courtship broadcast” where they act out their love for alien viewers in space as a method to generate money. It’s similar to making a sitcom out of their lives; improvisation is necessary. It works for a while because the novelty of it all makes their relationship playful. Both of their families are supported by the income, and things appear to be calming down. But soon both Adam and the unstable living environment start to cause problems.
A cordial but slightly strained coexistence quickly turns into a class war, with the underlying racial undertones mostly left unresolved. The movie avoids any chance to address the very real problem of white discontent with Black success and prosperity because it is so afraid to admit that Chloe’s family is somewhat racist. Even so, it is evident how ludicrous that is. Even though it’s the end of the world, this white family feels threatened by the wealth that a Black family once possessed. Therefore, there is no desire to cooperate or meaningfully combine the two families. Perhaps that isn’t a flaw in the story at all; it’s just how things would develop anyway.
How can one be an artist in a culture that denigrates and suppresses genuine work is a bigger concern in Landscape With Invisible Hand. As business leaders take more control over the arts, this question becomes more and more important. Adam is experiencing a more accelerated version of what today’s authors, filmmakers, and artists are going through. Jobs disappear as companies merge, inspiring those with creative minds to sell out or take a completely different path.
The calmness of the invasion seems eerily plausible because Finley is an expert at making a science fiction premise seem unimportant and uninteresting. The Vuvv utilise the development of technology as a justification for the quick extinction of empathy, much as the rich class we now have. It is an eloquent critique of capitalism’s brutality, which frequently demands a price for our freedom. But despite this, the movie never fully commits to a darker tone, instead opting for whimsical whenever things for Adam start to get difficult. Dramatic episodes of rejection and loss are handled matter-of-factly and come off as more act breaks than true emotional moments.
Nevertheless, Blackk’s eyes are filled with such emotion that it fills the entire screen. The paintings Adam creates are the movie’s other main draw because they are expertly used to depict time passing from his perspective. They are the most vibrant aspect of the film in many respects. They provide us with a viewpoint that is often lost in a culture that prioritises technical development over artistic expression.