Landscape With Invisible Hand, playing at the Sundance Film Festival, resembles The Twilight Zone episodes that tackle alien life and discrimination. Here, in the not-so-distant future, the Vuvvs arrive, bringing technological advancement on the cheap. The Vuvv have box-shaped bodies, eyes that extend above them like antennas, and limbs that remind you of those toys that stick to walls when you throw them.
Their behavior is the same as people despite their physical appearance. Written and directed by Cory Finley and based on a book by M.T. Anderson, Landscape With Invisible Hand charts a journey through class discrimination and economic upheaval by showing two families navigating a changed world.
Landscape With Invisible Hand Is Our World’s Trajectory With Aliens
Adam Campbell, a Black teenager (Asante Blackk), lives with his sister, Nat (Brooklynn MacKinzie), and his mom, Beth Campbell (Tiffany Haddish). As his sister tries to grow vegetables in a makeshift garden, a floating city moves above them. The wealthiest people now live up there. At school, the class watches hologram videos via nodes they stick on their foreheads. The video talks about the Vuvv’s arrival five years prior. At that time, despite some people not wanting them here, business owners saw potential to make money.
The Vuvvs label this a “new era of prosperity” for humankind. It sounds like the whitewashing of history children learn in schools. The students in that class and their families do not enjoy economic prosperity. On the contrary, many of them are barely surviving. Adam’s mom, a lawyer, can’t find a job, and past-due bills continue piling up. Like Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, they end humanity’s need to make products. But in Landscape With Invisible Hand, the Vuvvs take away jobs, not expenses. A real-life example would be outlets attempting to use A.I. to write articles so they can fire writers and increase their profits.
Unknown Guests And A Reality Show
His crush is evident when Adam meets his new white classmate Chloe Marsh (Kylie Rogers), during art class. Adam invites Chloe and her family to stay with him. It must be a strange time. I do not know any teen who can invite a family to move in without their parent flipping out. Now you have a Black family with a white family living in their basement. As Chloe and Adam get closer, she suggests they make vlogs charting their relationship, known as “courtship broadcasts.” The Vuvv have no understanding of love, so those relationships are “exotic” and “interesting.” Sound familiar?
For a short while, it works; the pair make good money just broadcasting their love for the Vuvvs’ consumption. But amidst the success, tensions rise between their families. That leads to Adam and Chloe’s relationship floundering. Next thing you know, a Vuvv sues them for lying about being in love. The couple, then later Adam’s mom, Beth, talks to the Vuvv to prevent the lawsuit. In exchange for dropping the case, Beth has to take in one of the Vuvv, Shirley’s offspring, to live as her husband. The need to cater to the Vuvv’s demands is the same as pandering to the rich.
Gender and Racial Conflict Remains
Landscape With Invisible Hand explores multiple issues like exploitation, capitalism, gender, and race. The racial dynamic starts with the first awkward meeting between Adam and Chloe’s families. There’s an undercurrent of race and gender tension that comes out later in the film. After all, Beth is a Black woman, while Chloe’s dad, Mr. Marsh (Josh Hamilton), and brother Hunter (Michael Gandolfini) are white men. Mr. Marsh, determined that Beth does not look down on them, stresses they are different than other poor, struggling families.
Mr. Marsh’s behavior toward Adam and Chloe’s relationship changes once they begin making good money from it. He and his son, Hunter, show their misogynoir in their entitled attitude toward Beth. Though guests, at first, they now pay rent. But that does not entitle them to use personal property. But their whiteness and identity as men let them think it does. Still, the fact that Beth does not toss them out is unrealistic. So while Landscape With Invisible Hand tackles racism and misogynoir, it lacks authentic follow-through.
Earth won’t need the arrival of Vuvvs to continue widening the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots. Landscape With Invisible Hand holds a mirror up to what is occurring and a bleak future ahead. Yet, there lies resilience and fire even with the world looking like The Twilight Zone‘s “People Are Alike All Over.” Landscape With Invisible Hand crafts a uniquely entertaining story with social commentary.