MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Some Kind of Heaven - Streaming Rental from Prime Video, VUDU, Apple TV, Fandango Now, You Tube, Microsoft. ($6.99)
Documentary directed by Lance Oppenheim
There’s a famous quote from Phil Alden Robinson’s 1989 film Field of Dreams that has received some cynical pushback over the years:
“Is this heaven?” “It’s Iowa.” “Iowa? I could have sworn it was heaven.”
While that movie imagined a world in which heaven literally invaded earth in the form of a baseball game, the search for a kind of paradise on earth continues unabated, especially by people “of a certain age”.
Welcome to The Villages, Florida, an area of 78 different villages (so far) that encompasses 32 square miles with over 128,000 residents living in one of the largest retirement communities in the United States (and the largest number of military veterans). It’s 45 miles from Orlando and shares the same kind of small-town Americana as Disney World’s Main Street. There are activities galore and theaters, restaurants, swimming pools, tennis courts and parties every night. If you want to get your Jimmy Buffett groove on, this is the place. (But it’s not Margaritaville – that’s Jimmy Buffett’s retirement community in Daytona Beach!)
Some Kind of Heaven begins as a light-hearted and informative overview of The Villages with a faux positivity that resembles a time share sales pitch. But then the film pivots to highlight four people who are (to quote Bob Dylan) “trying to get to heaven before they close the door”:
- Barbara, a recent widow, lonely and withdrawn, who is finding it hard to live her newly-single life.
- Reggie and Ann, approaching almost fifty years of marriage, who discover their relationship challenged when Reggie starts to dabble in tai chi and hard drugs (including psychedelics and cocaine). As the couple drift apart, Reggie’s mind drifts as well, and he experiences a day in court as well as several strokes.
- Dennis, traveling cross-country to Florida and living in a van (which he has to keep moving about when confronted by local authorities), has dreams of meeting a nice-looking lady with some money. Things do not quite go as planned.
All of them are trying to make the most of life in the state that has often been called “heaven’s waiting room”. It should be noted that Some Kind of Heaven does not spend any time showing us assisted living and nursing homes, geriatric hospital units, or hospice facilities, surely not hard to find in The Villages.
The film’s heartfelt empathy for these complicated and conflicted people provides the opportunity to ponder how everyone must struggle between the things that bring us fleeting happiness and the things that bring us meaning and purpose.
Some Kind of Heaven works well as a paraphrase of the book of Ecclesiastes: “I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 NRSV)
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A compassionate and moving character study.
One pitchfork: Mild swearing; one crude sexual comment.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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