As Jared Drake's "Visioneers" establishes its bleak portrait of the corporate world in a dystopian future, I loved the idea and premise behind the enterprise. Low-key, mundane, and loaded with banal monotony, the work day that Zach Galifianakis and his colleagues must endure as office drones is brought to life with exquisitely uncomfortable awkwardness. As the DVD cover suggests a marriage of Mike Judge's "Office Space" with Terry Gilliam's "Brazil", it seems a relatively apt comparison from the film world--but Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" also seems to be a relevant influence. But taking these great cues and starting with a winning hand, it soon becomes clear (especially in the film's second half) that the screenplay really doesn't know where to go. It's a shame, too--I was rooting for this to be a little undiscovered gem--but I started watching this with three friends and by the end, only I remained. Billed as a black comedy, anyone expecting a riotous and laugh-out-loud film should check their expectations before proceeding.
Galifianakis works for the renowned Jessups Corporation--headed with great comedic aplomb by D.W. Moffett. Preaching happy thoughts and productivity, the office has become a mind numbing existence. His discontent wife (the always reliable Judy Greer) seeks solace and comfort from a book on happiness and current fads to fill her empty days. And his brother (a spry James LeGros), recently released from prison, takes up residence in his backyard and is soon leading a movement to endorse freedom of expression. In a land where critical thought and feelings are frowned upon, it's not easy to get by. When people start to explode, literally, from boredom and repressed emotion--it serves as a catalyst to reevaluate life.
The office scenes can be quite amusing initially--although you have to be careful expressing boredom cinematically because sometimes it can come off as boring. There are frequently static scenes of characters staring expressionlessly into space for extended time periods. I really loved Greer and the skewering of media related culture. I'm a fan of all the principle actors, but after a bit--they seemed to get stranded. LeGros' sub-plot, in particular, builds in bizarre ways without much narrative clarity. The movie veers into a more realistic territory (the uncorrupted country) where our hero attempts to make an actual human connection with his dream girl. I didn't much care for this gentler world and don't feel it integrated particularly well with the rest of the film. The ending, for me, was completely unsatisfying as well. On the plus side, the film is different and some of the cast is appealing (those that aren't completely lifeless). On the negative side, pacing will be an issue to many. I didn't mind that as much as the film had no follow-through from its intriguing premise. A good start just sort of continuously wound down into nothingness for me. KGHarris, 6/11.