Some Kind of Heaven: Dark undercurrents in the last resort

Portrait of life in a Florida retirement community has shades of Blue Velvet

Some Kind of Heaven: There’s a compelling soap opera bubbling under the sterile surface

Film Title: Some Kind of Heaven

Director: Dennis Dean, Lynn Henry, Anne Kincer, Reggie Kincer

Starring: Dennis Dean, Lynn Henry, Anne Kincer, Reggie Kincer

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 81 min

Fri, May 7, 2021, 05:00

   

The Villages, a sprawling, profoundly plastic Florida retirement community, takes up three counties, and houses 130,000, mostly white baby boomers in a Trump-heavy voting block some 45 miles north-west of Orlando.

With its whizzing golf carts, regimented exercises, cocktails and crooned standards in the 1950s-inspired Town Square, The Villages is variously described as “God’s waiting room” and “Disney World for retirees”. For this viewer, the chilling conformity of the place evoked Squidward’s stifling stay at the gated community of Squidville in Spongebob Squarepants.

No wonder pensioner Reggie Kincer, a 72-year-old who has been married to patient Anne for 47 years, has turned to Class A drugs to spice up his carefully planned retirement. Hauled before a court for possession of cocaine and weed, Reggie compliments the exasperated judge on his “nice shiny face”. Reggie’s misadventures prefigure the eventual boredom that engulfs Dennis, a glamorous 81-years-young gigolo who lives out of his van and mooches around this sterile Rockwellian fantasy in the hope of scoring a nice lady provider.

He’s come to the right place. The Villages has plenty of single women, including the lovely widowed Barbara, a Bostonian with a frisky dog who works in the facility’s nursing department. One fine day – is there any other kind in this place? – she feels a connection with Lynn, a flirty golf-cart salesman with a passion for margaritas. But when she takes up his invitation to one of the community’s many planned evening activities, she discovers she’s not the only woman to have heard his margarita pitch.

In subject matter and empathy, there is considerable and welcome overlap here with Errol Morris’s Vernon, Florida and recent Oscar nominee The Mole Agent. Debut director Lance Oppenheim may be a twentysomething but he finds plenty of drama, nuance, and humanity among his much older subjects in a community that, in recent years, has been ridiculed as a MAGA fortress.

Life in The Villages intersects with the suburbia of Blue Velvet and, in common with that dark dramatic underbelly, there’s a compelling soap opera bubbling under the sterile surface. Ignoring what lies beneath and the worried whispers about money, there’s an obvious and sobering dimension to Some Kind of Heaven: in their quest to live comfortable, tyrannically upbeat lives, the inhabitants are barely living at all.