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CineVegas 2008

Visioneers

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Though momentum begins to falter two-thirds of the way through the movie and the storyline is a bit shaky, Zach Galifianakis’ brilliantly understated performance in Visioneers saves the film from getting carried away on its own flights of ... not fancy, exactly, but something more akin to enforced apathy.

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Four questions with "Visioneers" star Zach Galifianakis
Visioneers
***
Zach Galifianakis, Judy Greer, Mia Maestro, Missi Pyle, James LeGros
Directed by Jared Drake
Plays June 18 at 4:30 p.m. and June 19 at 8:30 p.m.

Drake’s directorial debut tells the story of George Washington Winsterhammerman, a paper-pusher for the Jeffers Corporation, “the largest, friendliest and most profitable corporation in the history of all mankind.” While his dreams cast him as his namesake founding father, his day-to-day life involves a sexless marriage to a TV-addict wife (Greer), a son who (very literally) won't come out of his room, a brother who lives only for pole-vaulting in the back yard and zero enthusiasm for his infantilizing job. Meanwhile, people have taken to exploding, and George fears he’s about to be one of them.

The story is refreshingly quirky, but Visioneers’ greater context lends a surprising heft. The setting could be an alternate reality, or it could be the future, if a future outfitted only with ’50s office technology and color schemes. Production and advertising rule all, and dreams, like those George is having, are considered dangerous. “Passive men like yourself are normally not the sort who suffer from dreams,” he’s told.

The grand statements, however, can’t compete with the screen presence of Galifianakis, who until now has very rightly gained more acclaim as a comedian than for roles in Bubble Boy and Out Cold, or the more recent Into the Wild and What Happens in Vegas. He’s tamed his normally prodigious beard for his first leading role, allowing the camera to focus on his deeply furrowed brow and a mouth agape in bewilderment at a life in which accepting your place without question is the highest goal. His traditionally absurd stand-up is replaced by biting satire and a smattering of blunt visual gags, all of which emanate from sources other than himself. Overall, there are traces of 1984, The Office and even Tony Robbins to be found, but Visioneers, though a shade unfocused, remains visionary in its own right.

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Julie Seabaugh

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