From South Florida documentarian Lance Oppenheim comes the cringiest film of the year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Some Kind of Heaven offers moments when it does feel bad. It opens with a sequence of shots that are intended to illicit this response: “Wow, look at those old people doing THAT!” Synchronized swimming, synchronized golf carts, and dancing—lots of dancing.
Later, the director turns his lens, in close-up, toward four elderly residents of The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community. This is where the surprises emerge. Some of these older folks are boozing, drugging, sexing, lying, cheating, manipulating, criminal people. All under the rather easy facades of kindly retirees.
Oppenheim’s fishbowl approach gives the film its candidness, but also feels a bit like cheating. The director keeps hidden two major parts of each subject’s life: their history and their family. So, The-Villages-as-Disney-World-for-seniors metaphor appears that much more tawdry. The residents might be doing whatever the hell they want, but watching them do it puts us in the unfortunate position of cringing voyeur.
Still, there are thought-provoking moments in “Some Kind of Heaven.” The old “What is the meaning of life?” comes to mind, but also, “How does that meaning change throughout the stages of life?” Though its strangeness is sometimes manipulated into place, the documentary is pleasantly strange. If Jim Morrison had lived and become a filmmaker, his work might look something like this.
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