Landscape With Invisible Hand review: uneven sci-fi satire

Had Greta Gerwig and David Lynch worked together on Independence Day, the result might have been similar to Landscape With Invisible Hand, a deviously subversive sci-fi satire with a sensual kick.

Adapted by writer-director Cory Finley from the 2017 novel of the same name by MT Anderson, the film takes the well-travelled alien invasion genre and mischievously flips it, offering contemporary critiques of everything from authoritarian rule and colonialism to economic inequality and social injustice.

Down on solid ground, the landscape around the Campbell family’s suburban home on the East Coast in the 2030s doesn’t look much different, save for the shadows cast by their overlords’ constantly passing floating cities.

It turns out that the first contact between Earth and the Vuvv happened a few years earlier, and instead of the ‘War of the Worlds’ bombast, the takeover of the planet was accomplished by a whimpering handshake between our world leaders, blinded by the flashy Technology from the Vuvv resulted in human jobs becoming redundant and the economy in free fall.

The chronicler of events is 17-year-old Adam (Asante Blackk), an aspiring artist who lives with his mother Beth (an extremely submissive Tiffany Haddish), who was once a lawyer before the Vuvv takeover, and his younger sister Natalie (Brooklynn MacKinzie ) lives together their large, crumbling home.

At Adam’s urging, the household takes in his new classmate Chloe (Kylie Rogers), her proud father (Josh Hamilton), and her disgruntled big brother (Michael Gandolfini), who had been living in their car and couldn’t find work under the new regime.

A mother and her son carrying a backpack are having a discussion.

Tiffany Haddish and Asante Blackk in the film “Landscape With Invisible Hands”.

(Lynsey Weatherspoon / MGM)

As Adam and Chloe’s palpable sexual spark grows, she suggests they monetize their budding relationship by opening it up to “courtship shows,” and earn some nice cash deposits from Vuvv viewers fascinated by human mating rituals apply.

But as they continue to stage their dates, even after the relationship has cooled, they get into trouble with the Human Broadcast Standards Commission, which threatens to sue them for false information until Beth agrees to team up with a temporary Vuvv husband .

While the talented ensemble keeps things reasonably grounded, they end up playing second fiddle to the wonderful gonzo vuvv. Created by Erik-Jan De Boer, the Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor responsible for giving Bong Joon Ho’s “Okja” its sentimental, pig-like pulse, the Vuvv creatures, aptly described by one of the characters as “sticky coffee tables”, the shameless scene stealers responsible for the film.

Equipped with paddle-like appendages that they rub together to communicate, the Vuvv, when heard through their human translation boxes, possess the soft tones of a patriarchal 1950s television announcer – which, considering they, if you consider that they learned a lot about our culture through old reps would be totally understandable.

But just beneath the piercing absurdity (playfully underscored by composer Michael Abels’ liberal use of the otherworldly theremin) lies a scathing cautionary tale that addresses numerous issues in contemporary society. (Adam’s English teacher proclaims, “Apparently my tiny salary is too much of a burden for the school,” his curriculum shifts to Vuvv culture and history.)

While Finley, who previously directed the Emmy-winning Hugh Jackman drama Bad Education, doesn’t quite manage to maintain the film’s irreverent energy, particularly in the more melancholy second half, it easily manages to entertain deliver that has its appeal once completely otherworldly and all too relevantly down-to-earth.

“Landscape with Invisible Hand”

Evaluation: R, for speech and short violent content

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

Play: In limited edition

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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