“Landscape with Invisible Hand”: Painted with Layers

I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Landscape with Invisible Hand.” One thing I did know was that the cast intrigued me. Tiffany Hadish is an accomplished actress that I always enjoy watching. Asante Blackk I know from “This is Us” and loved his performance in the show. William Jackson Harper I am very familiar with from “The Good Place.” Also Annapurna Pictures has created some interesting films in the past. When I watched the film, I was blown away by the complexity and depth of both the story and the performances. This film is painted with layers of both emotion and brilliant, insightful thought. 

“Landscape with Invisible Hand” is a science fiction comedy-drama film written and directed by Cory Finley based on the 2017 book of the same name by M. T. Anderson. The film depicts the near future of humanity in which an alien species known as the Vuvv have taken over Earth, creating financial difficulties and scarcity of resources. An aspiring teenage artist Adam (Asante Blackk) and his girlfriend Chloe (Kylie Rogers) hatch a scheme to make money by broadcasting their dating life to the fascinating aliens. But the two teens slowly fall out of love, resenting each other but can’t break up without bankrupting their families due to the contract restrictions from the Vuvv. Adam’s mother Beth (Tiffany Hadish) comes up with a solution but is the solution worse than bankruptcy? William Jackson Harper plays Adam’s father Mr. Campbell, Brooklynn MacKinzie plays Natalie, Adam’s sister, Josh Hamilton plays Chloe’s father, Mr. Marsh and Michael Gandolfini portrays her brother Hunter. 

Part of the reason that this film is so  brilliant is the layers of emotion and thought. It explores the complexities of human society, delving into subjects like capitalism, monopolies, the exploitation of artists, and the resilience of humanity. It even briefly mentions Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs even though it doesn’t name it that. The writing explores what happens in the face of a lack of resources, what do you focus on, survival or do you feed your soul to the detriment of your body? Is it more important to stay true to yourself or do you sell your ideals so your children or yourself can have food on the table?  What happens when wealth is not evenly distributed but is all controlled by a few individuals?  These themes are all explored with layers of emotion and with careful consideration. 

With all the social commentary and brilliant concepts, this film still manages to infuse the story with humor. It is one of the few films I’ve seen that manages to blend comedy and drama fairly seamlessly. There is an especially good parody of replicated food such as used in Star Trek. The film has several nods to different science fiction shows in its humor. But the biggest reason the comedy is so well integrated is because of Tiffany Haddish. Her responses and facial expressions highlight the ridiculous moments in the film. In the story, the Marsh family comes to live with Beth Campbell and her family. The interactions between them, especially when they are at odds, highlights both the humor but seriousness of the situation. I especially love Tiffany’s character Beth’s scenes with the Vuvv which occasionally border on ludicrous but in a way that adds commentary to the movie. The film has a quirky humor to it, it is definitely unusual but in those humorous moments, the film shines brightest. 

One of the best used elements of the film is the presentation of art pieces, all created by Adam, to separate out the sequences of the film. Not only does this help reinforce the idea of layers but the art itself is captivating and emotional. Just like art should, it resonates with the audience and highlights the emotions of the scenes in the film. The use of the paintings also foreshadows events in the film that explores the nature of art and why humans create it. 

Asante Blackk gives a powerful and nuanced performance as Adam Campbell. As well as his scenes with his family, the dynamic between him and Kylie Rogers is phenomenal. Both of them feel like teenagers who liked each other, only to find that the differences between them couldn’t be surmounted. The ups and downs of how their friendship is expressed through expression and physical gestures helps demonstrate so many of the themes of the film. Part of the success of the film is the chemistry between the pair of actors. Kylie Rogers also gives a profoundly skilled performance, her character struggling with survival and with less options than Adam’s family. Tiffany Haddish perfectly balances comedic elements with more serious moments as Beth, Adam’s mother. She is compelling, warm and strong. William Jackson Harper adds to the drama with a skillful touch as does Michael Gandolfini as Hunter. Josh Hamilton as Mr. Marsh is excellent at adding humor to his scenes, especially with the Vuvv. The entire cast is outstanding.


If you like your science fiction with thought provoking drama and humor, this is the film for you. It is insightful, emotional and powerful. The performances are brilliant and compelling. The humor is quirky and will connect to audiences. But the most important reason to see this film is for the absolutely brilliant exploration of society, capitalism and the function of art between the two. This film has a lot of different elements going on but to me, that means everyone will have the ability to take something different from this movie. It is painted with layers of brilliance and thought provoking ideas. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 paintings

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