The Planters

At the Movies Blog

Hannah Leder plays a character with 3 personalities.

I really, really wanted to like this movie. The two women that made it — Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder — had no crew. They wrote, directed, and starred in it. Since both of them have parents in the business (Ted Kotcheff directed North Dallas Forty, Switching Channels, Weekend at Bernies, First Blood and more; Mimi Leder directed On the Basis of Sex, Deep Impact, Pay it Forward, and lots of TV).  Yet this movie is nothing like the films their parents did. This is as if Wes Anderson and Miranda July had a baby — it would be this movie. The problem is that despite some interesting visuals and set pieces, it sucks.

We watch Martha (Kotcheff), a very bad telemarketer, as she tries to sell air conditioners in the desert. She’d probably be bad at any job involving sales, as she has not an ounce of enthusiasm in her voice. Even when that rare customer asks, “Why should I buy this?” she’s at a loss for words. When asked what it does, I did smile when she said, “It cools the air.” That’s literally, the biggest laugh in the film.

Martha lives in her deceased parents’ house in a small desert town, filled with tchotchkes (and we see her shoplifting more of them at a local pawn shop). She doesn’t have much of a spiel as she tries to sell the air conditioning units, but when she meets a homeless woman (Leder) who has three personalities, things get a little better. After all, she’s always wanted a sister. And when she invites her to move in, she finds that she can help with sales. But she does poop her pants (well, one of her personalities is a 4-year-old).

For reasons my wife and I couldn’t figure out, Martha takes the tins out of her house and buries items in them. It might be a snowglobe, or just a screwdriver. Treasure hunters find them and leave her money in the tin as payment. Another thing that is hard to figure out is…does Martha also suffer from a mental illness? Now, I’m guessing the filmmakers weren’t creating a character that was supposed to have a mental illness, but if this was a person we worked with or a neighbor, we’d just assume they had a psychological disorder or were on the spectrum. It’s one thing when you have Aubrey Plaza or Zooey Deschanel playing a character that doesn’t seem to care about anybody or anything, throwing away deadpan lines because they’re sick of dealing with the dopes of the world. But this Martha character takes that to such an extreme level, it makes no sense.

When the crazy woman looks inside the tins or at a snowglobe, we are treated to some stop-motion animation visions. Those aren’t the least bit amusing, but I’m sure the filmmakers think this is all idiosyncratic cleverness. No, it’s just idiotic.

All the characters lack emotion, so we care little about them or derive any satisfaction from watching them. 

Periodically, there are scenes that show a bicycle go by with a wagon and a person inside, and a goofy, whimsical score. I’m sure hipster film lovers will adore this picture.

It took these two women four years to make this. And it kind of makes me happy knowing that because…without that knowledge, I would be livid that I wasted an hour and 15 minutes watching it. At least I know they had to waste four years of their lives making it.

0 stars. 

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