Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023) IMDB description: “When an occupying alien species’ bureaucratic rule and advanced technology leaves most of Earth impoverished and unemployed, two teenagers hatch a risky plan to ensure their families’ futures”.
Why I took it off the list: I resolved to check this adaptation of a 2017 satirical sci-fi novel off my list pretty much as soon as I saw the trailer earlier this year. Because it just sounded absolutely bonkers, in the best possible way.
Surprised that such a wacky concept actually got released by a major studio, and as it hails from the talented director of Thoroughbreds (2017), I was curious to see how it turned out. So, let’s dig in!
Review of Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023)
This unabashedly weird film imagines what would happen if a benevolent alien species with superior technology took over the world. And it seems to be mostly bad news for the regular humans unable or unwilling to get into business with them: economic decline, widespread unemployment, and general obsoleteness.
Wealthy folks who have found something to offer the species called the Vuvv live in opulent floating cities alongside their benefactors. The other 99% are left to eke out a meager living below. Hope of making some cash remains, however, as it turns out the Vuuv are fascinated by human relationships.
Therefore, 2 cash-strapped teens decide to do a ‘courtship broadcast’ and live-stream their dating life – for a price. However, problems arise when the smitten Adam realizes that his supposed sweetheart Chloe appears to just be putting on a show for the money.
It’s a wild concept, and it only really scratches the surface of the ideas broached in this expansive and ambitious film – which comes across as one big, scathing critique of capitalist systems.
Although the overall tone is comedic, the film has some surprisingly deep insights into inequality and the extent to which the less well-off often need to betray their morals just to get by. However, there’s also a nice message about staying true to yourself rather than selling out running through the film.
Impressive Performances and Effects
Director Corey Finely uses impressive visual storytelling from the very first scene. The concept is established quickly and effectively with a series of children’s paintings documenting scenes of daily life through 2022-2033, before and after ‘first contact’. He also creates a believably lived-in world with creative sci-fi touches throughout.
The design and execution of the aliens is agreeably wacky and unique – they’re both cute and vaguely sinister, and the effects in the film are pretty seamless. The production design of the alien’s domain is commendably off-kilter, like they’ve tried to grasp human decorating standards but haven’t quite mastered them.
The human characters are also exceptionally well cast. Asante Blackk makes for a likable, sympathetic lead, and Kylie Rogers is effective in a tricky role – although her character gets a bit neglected as the story goes on. Josh Hamilton (AHS:Coven) is pretty funny as Chloe’s desperate father, and William Jackson Harper (The Good Place, Midsommar) also makes a brief but welcome appearance.
The biggest surprise is probably Tiffany Haddish as Adam’s mother. Haddish is funny as expected, but she also gets to show off some impressive dramatic chops, especially considering many of her scenes are opposite a squishy alien named ‘Shirley’ and its offspring.
Final Score: 7/10
Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023): Worth Watching?
Yes. Landscape with Invisible Hand is undoubtedly a very strange film, and won’t be for everyone.
However, if you’re willing to get on its wavelength, it’s ultimately a surprisingly thought-provoking and satisfying narrative with some funny moments and ace special effects.
Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023)
Directed by Cory Finley
Written by Cory Finley, M.T. Anderson