Every week, Indiewire chief film critic Eric Kohn singles out a movie available for free streaming from our parent company SnagFilms’ library and tells you why you should watch it now. This is the first installment.
The perils of a drab office job have always been fertile ground for dystopian visions, with Terry Gilliam’s "Brazil" still the reigning king of a distinctly American genre that also includes everything from "Gattaca" to "Idiocracy." Last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival saw the premiere of British director Richard Ayoade’s "The Double," which stars Jesse Eisenberg as an alienated drone at war with a dehumanizing routine and an absurdist rivalry with his aggrandizing coworker who looks exactly like him. A dark comedy about bureaucratic pressures, "The Double" opens in early May, and if you find the hypnotic trailer compelling, just wait until you see the whole thing.
In the meantime, the best place to turn for a bleakly funny skewering of cubicle culture is Jared Drake’s irreverent near-future parody "Visioneers." Co-written by the director’s brother Brandon, this delightfully offbeat comedy stars a Zach Galifianakis in his most daring turn that arrived a year before his first big studio role in "The Hangover" -- and hints at a depth not found in anything he’s done since.
The movie finds him playing the disoriented George Washington Winsterhammerman, who exists in a bizarre universe of organized mundanity in which anyone who can’t take it anymore simply self-destructs. George constantly seems as though he may fall prey to the pressure, but he’s surrounded by forces that help bring him back from the brink: a supportive wife (Judy Greer) stuck in her own dispiriting cycle of domesticity, and the surrealist encouragements of his employer, the Orwellian Jefferson Corporation, which watches his every move and encourages him to embrace his bland reality.
The ideology surrounding George at every turn has the slick, airless feel of a demented Apple campaign -- which gives the movie an alarming degree of prescience given that it came out a year ahead of the first iPhone. Without displaying much in the way of sophisticated electronics, “Visioneers” has a dreamy quality that echoes present-day concerns: With the rush of technological efficiency, humanity itself becomes part of the machine.
Just as Spike Jonze’s "Her" eloquently depicted the dangers of romantic experience in the face of computerized relationships, "Visoneers" explores the isolating effect of perfect order. While the characters' mounting frustrations benefit from a handful of special effects — look out for that initial explosion! — the movie’s principle device is Galifanakis’ solemn gaze, which speaks volumes about the challenges of feeling purposeful in an indifferent world. Even so, by its end, George's ability to live another day contains the tiniest sliver of hope — a vaguely idealistic finale that we can all take to heart.
Watch it below: