The Planters stars Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder, who also take on directing, scriptwriting, as well as production duties. This is impressive, and considering how filming and production has come to a screeching halt for many films now because of COVID, Kotcheff and Leder prove that there are loopholes to consider. The film definitely gives off Wes Anderson vibes, in the whimsical tone and the framing techniques that Kotcheff and Leder employ – an offbeat indie that dazzles.
The Planters follows Martha Plant (Kotcheff), who has a job selling Clear Breeze air conditioners (though she isn’t too good at it). What she seems to have more of a passion for is her side hustle, which involves her shoplifting items and then planting them in the ground. She posts the coordinates on a bulletin board of sorts, and when she returns to retrieve the tin, the item is gone, and she is compensated with cash. We’re not talking copious amounts of cash here, but the cash returns satisfies her. Having lost her parents, Martha is alone, and while she seems okay, her life feels rather isolated and lonely.
This all changes when she meets Sadie (Leder), who is now homeless because the mental institution that she was living at has closed down. Sadie suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and toggles between three personalities, with the other two being Emma, a four year old who keeps shitting her pants, and rebel Angie. Leder could really give James McAvoy a run for his money, since she plays all three personalities so convincingly, though her characterisation of Sadie and Angie feels a tad more natural than the child persona of Emma.
The contrast between Martha and Sadie is what makes this a fun watch. It kind of reminded me of Janeane Garofalo and Uma Thurman’s characters in The Truth About Cats and Dogs – the pair are as different as night and day, yet the friendship makes sense. For the first time in a long time, Martha isn’t alone, and in some ways, Sadie has found a friend that is able to accept all sides of her.
When Martha is given an ultimatum by her boss, with a task to sell 30 air conditioners or she’s fired, Martha starts to loosen up a bit with Sadie there to coach her through it. She’s so bad at sales because she treats these people on the phone as strangers, instead of trying to connect with them. It is through a sales call that she meets Richard (Phil Parolisi), and the two feel the tug of a thread that exists between them, which then moves from just something on the phone, to something in real life.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the clay animation present in this, which is visually wonderful and adds to the whole whimsical vibe the film is going for. Sadie has an obsession with religion and Jesus, and within Martha’s tins (the ones she uses to bury things), she sees various biblical scenes play out – the parting of the red sea, Jesus walking on water, etc. She isn’t sure if she’s hallucinating or if these scenes are real and Jesus is trying to tell her something. The significance here doesn’t really need to be unpacked, since the symbolism at play becomes quite obvious once we reach the end.
The Planters, amidst the bleak setting that is 2020, is such a joyful film, about friendship, self-discovery, and how, even in isolation, we constantly have a desire to reach out, to connect, to have people in our lives who love us, even if we aren’t sure we love ourselves.
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Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder's film is an offbeat indie that dazzles in all the right ways, a must-watch labour of love.
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