There are a whole bunch of ideas, probably a few too many, packed into “Landscape with Invisible Hand,” a smart but uneven alien invasion sci-fi comic drama that treats our first contact with interdimensional species as just another global bummer.
The first time we see an alien ship in the film, it isn’t met with awe or wonder. It’s just in the way, and Adam Campbell (Asante Blackk) is disappointed because it’s ruining the otherwise pristine sky he’s busy painting.
It’s 2037, several years after the alien species known as the Vuvv first lands on Earth, and there are no laser battles or a great war occurring against them. Rather they’re slowly downsizing humanity, like an outwardly polite but internally hostile corporate takeover, and their occupation deeply disrupts our socioeconomic balance, displacing well-to-do families and turning them into foragers.
That includes the Marshes — dad (Josh Hamilton), son Hunter (Michael Gandolfini) and daughter Chloe (Kylie Rogers) — who are rendered homeless by one of the alien ship’s indiscriminate dumping. But Chloe is classmates at school with sensitive artist Adam, and he has a bit of a crush on her, so he invites her and her family to live in their basement.
Chloe has an idea to exploit her relationship with Adam for cash: the Vuvv, it turns out, are enchanted by human courtship, and are willing to pay currency to watch live broadcasts of people dating, like reality TV or social media live feeds. But only if it’s real, and when their relationship starts to fizzle, Chloe and Adam are accused of faking their relationship for likes and are sued by the Vuvv. (It’s all laid out in the terms and conditions, of course.)
So in order to get them out of trouble and debt, Adam’s mom Beth (Tiffany Haddish) agrees to marry a Vuvv, a creature that resembles a fleshy rectangular box and speaks by rubbing its hands together, which opens up a whole new set of problems for the Campbells and the Marshes.
Again, there’s a lot going on here, and probably too much. “Landscape with Invisible Hand,” which is in the running for the year’s worst and most unmarketable title (it’s based on author M.T. Anderson’s 2017 novel of the same name), could easily be an eight episode miniseries, with all of its wry takes on humanity, race, class, art, expression, economics and society as a whole.
As is, writer-director Cory Finley (“Thoroughbreds”) presents an up-and-down satire, both deeply weird and totally original, with a dry sense of humor and takeaways that are funny, messy and unsettling, sometimes all at once. “Landscape with Invisible Hand” leaves you with plenty to think about, and plenty more to worry about.
‘LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND’
MPA rating: R (for language and brief violent content)
Running time: 1:34
How to watch: In theaters