Film Review: Some Kind of Heaven

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Lance Oppenheim
RELEASE DATE: April 13, 2021 | PRICE: DVD $17.29, Digital $6.99
SPECS: NR | 81 min. | Documentary | 1.33:1 | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2 | Audio  1/2 | Video  1/2 | Overall  1/2

Welcome to The Villages, a huge housing development for seniors located in central Florida. It’s where 130,000 older citizens have gone when retired to partake in its various highly structured programs like synchronized swimming, aerobics, dancing, theater, pickleball, “Parrot Head” socials and more. Ultimately, it’s a place where elderly, single folks have as much fun as possible with their spouses or hope to meet new romantic partners—perhaps their last ones before they pass on.  Known as “the Disney World for Retirees,” The Villages is an artificially created fantasy world, complete with a fictionalized history, where residents tool around in golf carts throughout its perfectly manicured premises. The Stepford Wives, Edward Scissorhands or The Truman Show may come to mind when discovering The Villages at first glance, and maybe even second or third.

Some Kind of Heaven, directed by a debuting feature helmer Lance Oppenheim and co-produced by The New York Times and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, mother!), is a stylized survey of The Villages that succeeds in being both expansive and intimate. We get to see how life plays out within the confines of the development, with Oppenheim singling out a few subjects on whom to plant his focus. The film was shot over a period of several months so, while the director’s approach at first seems random, taking in the activities of diverse Villagers, the audience is given a chance to follow the drama and experiences of these subjects over a period of time.

The principals: Ann and Reggie, a seemingly laid-back couple in their 70s, dealing with Reggie’s recent interest and possible addiction to THC and cocaine; Barbara, a widow attempting to get over the death of her spouse by finding a new romantic partner; and Dennis, an 81-year-old sharpie in serious financial trouble who lives out of his van and seeks a wealthy widow to take him in and support him.

Despite its selective focus, mesmerizing score and lush cinematography, Some Kind of Heaven may remind people of the larger-scaled documentaries of Frederick Wiseman, as the audience is a fly-on-the-wall, privy to the personal matters of these four people and human behavior in general. We witness the somewhat detached Ann offer subtle warnings to Reggie as he gets more dependent on drugs. We feel for Barbara when she her hopes for finding a new someone in her life are dashed. And we’re not quite sure what to make of Dennis, an engaging guy who we never quite trust (along with the women in his life). There’s more than a bit of a con artist in him.

Some Kind of Heaven offers a revelatory look inside an insular world, where nothing seems to matter to residents living there other than in their own lives, within in their own surroundings. Outwardly, these people—in particular the four the film focuses on—seem to be ok with that. But as we learn as the film moves forward, not all is always peachy keen in a world that is presented as peachy keen.

Buy or Rent Some Kind of Heaven

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.