All George wants is an explosion-free life
by Jason Blair
VISIONEERS: Directed by Jared Drake. Written by Brandon Drake. Cinematography, Dino Parks. Music, Tim DeLaughter. Starring Zach Galifianakis, Judy Greer and Mía Maestro. Fireside Films, 2009. R. 86 minutes. 44411
I can still remember the skepticism with which I approached The Truman Show, Peter Weir’s story of a man who discovers his life is a TV show. The film, co-starring Laura Linney, revealed Jim Carrey as a tormented jester, paving the way for similarly typecast comics like Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler to pursue dramatic roles. Now Zach Galifianakis, a standup comedian and actor best known for his breakout role in The Hangover, is releasing the film Visioneers via his website. His community of fans, while not broad yet, is surprisingly deep, evidenced by the monthly Zach Galifianakis Newsletter (or communiqué, according to his website) in which he muses on just about everything. While Visioneers, a bleak view of a dystopian future, buries Galifianakis’ natural zaniness too thoroughly — he hardly speaks for the first hour — the film is still worthwhile for hardcore fans or those wanting to get acquainted.
Visioneers has been described as a “poor man’s Brazil,” an association that is probably unfair to Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece of alienation and longing. Still, Visioneers has the spaciousness of a Gilliam movie, where the world can feel deserted and everything natural or human is expunged. In Visioneers, Galifianakis plays George, a Level 3 supervisor at the Jeffers Corporation, a company so powerful the U.S. president is its pitchman. George grows increasingly withdrawn as he struggles to manage his feelings, which sounds silly until you consider the consequences: In the future, people suppress their feelings so completely that they often explode from the effort. (It only happens once on-screen.) In response to the explosion epidemic, Jeffers Corp develops an inhibitor to help manage the “thoughts, pains or emotions that could lead to an explosion.” In a final effort to reclaim his human nature, George drives out to the Undeveloped Areas, a place we would call the countryside — or what a radio DJ, as if imagining Heaven, describes as a place of “inflatable castles, old folks, empanadas and women in bikinis.”
While Visioneers was made cheaply, it doesn’t look cheap, partly due to the recognizability of the cast. Supporting Galifianakis are Judy Greer (27 Dresses) as his wife Michelle and James LeGros as his brother Julien. But it’s Galifianakis who carries the day. His George is so remote and fearful that it’s hard to believe this is the same actor who, when asked by Conan O’Brian if he’d ever considered a stage name, replied that his actual name was Chad Farthouse.
Visioneers shows at 9 pm Saturday, Aug. 15, at Wandering Goat. 21+. Donations.