'Landscape With Invisible Hand' - Not Enough Humor and Freakiness

"Landscape With Invisible Hand" via IMDb.

Based on the novel by Y/A author M. T. Anderson, “Landscape With Invisible Hand” (MGM) is a sci-fi comedy that features clever effects and more than a few laughs, but never achieves its full potential.

The movie is punctuated by a series of drawings and paintings from 2022-2037 ("after first contact") by Adam (Asante Blackk), depicting the relatively peaceful VUVV alien invasion, and the present status of humans on Earth. Adam and his sister Natalie (Brooklyn McKinzie) live in Rhode Island with their mother Beth (a restrained Tiffany Haddish).

At school, the students watch animated propagandist videos promoting the benefits of VUVV control, such as wealth creation and industrial efficiency, which sound like something created by the right-wing outfit Prager U. In figure drawing class, Adam talks to Chloe (Kylie Rogers), a new student. She and her father (Josh Hamilton) and brother Hunter (Michael Gandolfini) were staying with an uncle but now bounce around from motels to sleeping in their car. Empathetic Adam invites Chloe's family to dinner with his family. It’s there that we see them eating the "printed" food created by the VUVV.

As Adam and Chloe grow closer, she suggests that they make money by doing a “courtship broadcast.” By setting the nodes on their foreheads to “broadcast” instead of “receive,” the VUVV, who don't have dating in their culture (they reproduce asexually by budding), find romance exotic and interesting. Soon they are making money and gaining viewers.

But the situation is far from perfect. There is tension between Chloe’s father and Beth, leading to the establishment of new house rules. Chloe and Adam’s relationship is on the skids, resulting in a lawsuit against them filed by VUVV lawyer Shirley, accusing them of deceiving their viewers. They must repay all funds they’ve received (which they’ve already spent), or the next six generations of their family will be in debt.

Beth, who had previously been a lawyer, gently pleads with Shirley to find a creative way to pay off Adam’s debt, resulting in Beth having to “pretend marry” one of Shirley’s offspring, whom one of the human characters describes as a “gooey coffee table.” The lawsuit will be dropped as long as the offspring is happy.

Just when things couldn’t get worse, Adam and Chloe’s school is closed (the comprehensive curriculum has been uploaded to their nodes). In protest, Adam paints a mural on the side of the boarded-up school. His “monument to human resilience" gains him attention and respect from a VUVV cultural expert. Suddenly in the limelight, he is transferred to one of the VUVV galaxies to recreate the mural and earn $2.7 million dollars. Needless to say; it doesn’t go well.

Of all the twists and turns, the queer one involving the unexpected relationship between Shirley’s offspring and Chloe’s father (now donning a blonde wig and apron), earns the most laughs. “Landscape With Invisible Hands” should have been funnier, freakier, or both, but it isn’t.

Rating: C+

Gregg Shapiro is the author of nine books including Refrain in Light (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2023). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in South Florida with his husband Rick, and their dog Coco.


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