Constructed in the early 1980s, The Villages—America’s largest retirement community—is home to 130,000, covers 32 square miles of central Florida, and has just about every amenity you can think of: Grocery stores, restaurants, night clubs, golf courses, pickleball courts, bars, churches, you name it. It’s like Disney World for seniors. And under warm Florida skies and with green palm trees everywhere, The Villages look a little like utopia.
It also looks like this could be the opening to a David Lynch movie—at least how documentarian Lance Oppenheim captures The Villages in Some Kind of Heaven. But the rot underneath isn’t murder or rape or abject evil, just everyday ennui and the nagging notion of death lurking around the corner. They talk about death a lot in The Villages, albeit in the positive sense: “You have to make the most of these last few years.” But unless you’re a moody teenager clad in all-black with Nietzsche tucked under your arm, there’s only so much fun in discussing the inevitable.
Oppenheim follows a handful of subjects: Barbara, a widow who’s hoping to find companionship—which she does when she meets “The Margarita Man;” Dennis, who doesn’t live at The Villages but is casing the joint hoping to find a wealthy single lady he can mooch off; and Reggie, who has decided to start experimenting with mind-altering drugs late in life, which puts a considerable strain on his marriage to Anne.
It’s bonkers and wildly entertaining. Cinematographer David Bolen captures The Village and the villagers in stunning rigorous compositions. And Oppenheim does an excellent job of not intervening without vanishing—his subjects talk to him off-camera like an old friend. He’s not exploiting them, but they are performing for him. Some people just liked to be watched, and Some Kind of Heaven is happy to do the watching.
Some Kind of Heaven (2020)
Directed by Lance Oppenheim
Produced by Darren Aronofsky, Simon Horsman, Kathleen Lingo, Lance Oppenheim, Melissa Oppenheim, Jeffrey Soros, Pacho Velez
Magnolia Pictures, Not rated, Running time 81 minutes, Opens Jan. 15, 2021, in select theaters and on Video On Demand.