The Planters (Alexandra Kotcheff, Hannah Leder, 2019): USA

Reviewed by Ethan Messecar. Viewed at the AFI Fest 2019.

“The Planters,” at first glance, seems as though it could be nothing more than a well constructed knock off of Wes Anderson’s increasingly idiosyncratic filmography, however, upon further viewing, it becomes a highly unique and original indie gem. The film follows the character of Martha Plant, air conditioning telemarketer and self proclaimed “planter.” Martha has made a small business out of planting knick knacks in the ground and receiving payment by whoever has the pleasure of digging them up. On one of her planting excursions, Martha comes across Sadie, a mentally dissabled woman with multiple personality disorder. Together they go into business as they work to improve Martha’s telemarketing skills as well as expand the “planting business.” Though it’s plot can be sometimes aimless, the film shines through the form of it’s writing, directing, and acting. As stated, the directors opt for a Wes Andersonian attention to detail and framing, however where Anderson tends to get lost in the visual trappings of impressive tracking shots and overtly artificial worlds, the duo maintains a more grounded sense of whimsy via impeccably framed stationary shots, realistic but highly curated production design, and the occasional handheld shots which imbue a sense of intensity into certain scenes. Complementing these creative choices is an editing style akin to the work of Edgar Write, employing fast cuts and heightened sound effects which emphasize every cut as well as every action of the characters.

While some quirky films such as these can get lost in the worlds they create, leaving their characters behind to become little more than vehicles for whimsy (“Isle of Dogs” and “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” come to mind), writer, director, and actors Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder maintain the heart of each character to be what pulls this film to the finish line. No matter how strange their goals might be, the filmmakers are able to make them feel just as important to the audience as they are to it’s characters.


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