Some filmmakers lay their stories and themes out for your passive consumption, some make you “work for it,” and some…are Dana Ziyasheva. Her “Greatland” is a sort of pandemic and death of democracy satire that one suspects makes more sense in her head. Or “only makes sense” in her head.
In an alternate reality of “inclusion, tolerant and diverse” people who “don’t stigmatize, the “Greats” are immortal, monitored by digital smart watches and obsessed with cats as opposed to dogs.
“Felinism” is totally a thing, and “anti-felinists” are perceived as a threat. They’re even having an election over that conflict.
Profanity has been banned, along with death itself. That rabbit you’ve just been handed and told is your “son,” named “Albert,” by the all-seeing/all-knowing voice of “Mother” in that watch, has big teeth.
“Son of Delight! He BIT me!”
Life in cross-dressing/gender-undefined Greatland is greater than life in Evil Nation because “they are all hate, we are all love…By love we all live forever!”
Until Ulysses (Arman Darbo) turns 15. “Mother” (voiced by comic Jackie Loeb) wishes a happy birthday to her “non-binary bundle of joy.”
It’s just that Ulysses is suffering from a sort of ennui about all this love and cat-adoring, this life where procreation has ended and thus everybody’s free to let her/his/their freak flag fly — although dominatrix wear is about as sexual as this Brave New Candy-Colored World gets.
Ulysses’ pretty, misnamed friend, Ugly Duck (Chloe Ray Warmoth) may not sense anything amiss. But that detached heart that Ulysses somehow consults, Mr. Lee, is proof that outliers in this great land aren’t tolerated.
There’s talk of exile to “Repentance Island.” “Greats” may end up there. But do they become “clerks” (Nick Moran plays one) when they do? And what’s this virus that’s got everyone on tenterhooks? Ulysses, in search of Ugly Duck and answers, sets out to find out.
If you’ve ever wondered what a movie filmed inside a piñata might look like, wonder no more. This romp set in a Romper Room of streamers, bedazzled everything, sequined party wear and black lights is no-budget eye candy almost without peer.
But “romp” implies “fun,” and that’s in short supply. The mincing, dominatrix-attired priest (Donzell Lewis) is worth a grin. Otherwise?
Eric Roberts plays a leader of the Altruists, the “Greats” trying to find a cure for the virus. The bland mop topped leading man, Darbo, is known for “Itsy Bitsy” and for writer-director Ziyasheva’s “Defenders of Life.”
The arrival of “clerk” Moran flirts with the idea that this movie might be about something, that it could start to make sense. Cryptic pictures like “Greatland” make you focus until your head aches, waiting for that “Eureka!” moment.
A trippy, ripped-from-the-headlines trailer to this movie premiered to some attention last spring. That’s a cheat, with CNN, Bloomberg and Trump speech snippets trying to make something nonsensical topical.
Is this the post-pandemic paradise of tolerance and inclusion, that world we remake post Trumpian incompetence and intolerance?
Beats the delight out of me.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, some profanity
Cast: Arman Darbo, Chloe Ray Warmoth, Donzell Lewis, Nick Moran, J. P. Manoux, Jackie Loeb and Eric Roberts.
Credits:Written and directed by Dana Ziyasheva. Self-distributed.
Running time: 1:45