|By marqus bobesich (Poormarqus) on Tuesday, March 11, 2003 - 03:28 pm:|
MAITLAND, a dissatisfied Gen X'er, works at a cable station hoping to pay back his student loan. When the station decides to strike, he refuses to participate. Instead, he reluctantly accepts an offer from a fellow employee (SAL) who desperately needs someone to watch his house in Lansdowne while he's away on business. All he has to do is feed the cat and water the plants.
Maitland shows up the next day only to be greeted by a group of strangers rushing out of the house he's supposed to be watching. They greet him as "the new guy" and tell him that everything is set up and ready to go. Thinking there must be some sort of misunderstanding he tries to explain that he's doing his friend a favour and that his stay will be very short. Unconvinced, they barrage him with a checklist of house rules and leave him a sealed cardboard box as a welcome aboard present. Hoping to straighten things out with a phone call, he enters the house, only to discover that it's completely empty. While he looks through all the empty rooms (save the basement) his curious new neighbour, a silent eight year old boy, takes the mystery box and drags it to his lemonade stand set up across the street.
Upon opening the box, or the "bachelor's survival kit" the boy finds a cell phone, a book on hydroponics, junk food, and pornographic magazines. After giving up on making sense of the situation, Maitland sits down beside the boy in silence, oblivious to the fact that he's now in charge of a basement full of marijuana plants.
From here, we follow the individual stories of the six strangers who greeted Maitland at the mystery house, to find out how they spend their day. As marijuana sitters they are expected to leave their individual houses each day to give their neighbours the impression that they're honest, hard-working citizens. What they do with their time is up to them.
Two of them (KIM-CHEE, JUMBO) head straight for the mall on a daily basis to sit and watch the wall of televisions in a large department store. Though they talk about changing their lives and experiencing the world they cannot bring themselves to actually leave their hometown (or their Lazy Boy chairs, for that matter). In a sense, they are paralyzed by their own freedom.
The eldest house-sitter (GRAYBAR), a Zen-like hippie, spends his days teaching two teenagers to drive, though he himself failed to ever get his license. The male teen (DEREK) has deep feelings for his female co-driver (KAYLEY), which is obvious to everyone but her. Instead, she continues to date a deadbeat mall employee (SLUSH) whose promiscuity is known to everyone but her. Though the driving instructor remains quiet and detached for the most part, he finally steps out of character one day at the food court and confronts the boyfriend about his infidelity. After the young girl fails her road test (and has to be driven home by her parents) the two student drivers realize their plans to travel and 'be adult' will have to wait.
Another house-sitter (RAYNOR) finds work as a pool cleaner, which serves as a perfect front for casing out homes and robbing his clients. He comes across as being a highly educated young man, quoting great thinkers and arguing against Western commercialism and greed. He meets a lonely divorcee (MRS. SUMMERHILL) and over the course of a few days, charms her like all the others, all the while filling his van with various items. Little does he know her drunkenness is nothing more than an act, and she quickly turns the tables on him in the name of a little harmless sex.
As self-proclaimed 'eco-warriors', the final two house-sitters (WES, JAZZ) spend their days staging various environmental protests. When they're not tying themselves to train tracks or trees, they're plotting to jam local cable stations with their message to the world. As they approach this week's 'stop the seal hunt' performance piece, it becomes apparent that one of them is losing faith. In seeing their work for what it is - a "bad career choice" - he drops off resumes everywhere they go, unbeknownst to his gung-ho partner.
Throughout the week the other employees send various 'decoys' to Maitland's house, to test whether or not he is responsible. The moment he lets someone into the house - be it a phony plumber or meter maid - they burst out of the bushes and yell at him for breaking the rules, which could jeopardize the entire operation. He finally catches on and becomes determined to participate in life for once.
With daily visits (ie: therapy sessions) to the lemonade stand across the street, Maitland pours his heart out. Through a series of flashbacks involving an absent mother and indifferent girlfriends, we discover the root of his sadness and dysfunction. The question of whether or not he can trust a woman in his life is sparked by the boy's single mother (ANNA) coming home from work.
At first, she sees a strange man who is constantly talking to her son about his very adult problems. She also comes home to see the line-up of children waiting for lemonade growing exponentially, courtesy of the X-rated magazines hidden beneath the curtain. Hurt and saddened by her own bad luck with men (ie: the boy's father), she reluctantly takes a liking to Maitland. Though she remains baffled by all of his efforts to keep her away and out of his house, she finds herself trying to unravel his bizarre take on the world. In turn, she discovers a great deal about herself and about the huge demands that men and women make on one another.
The final act sees Maitland's house being raided the police. However, his daily visit to the boy and his mother saves him from being arrested and held accountable. He returns to the crime-scene the next day to collect his belongings only to be met by the 'friend' whose house he was in charge of, yelling at him from the porch next door. While arguing about who- screwed-up-what address (with the guy next door shaking the remains of a now petrified cat), Maitland realizes how lucky he really is, and how a bizarre case of wrong time/wrong place opened his eyes to the possibilities in life.
The majority of characters in "Life Lands Down" are paralyzed by their own freedom - they complain of feeling trapped, yet nonetheless do the same thing each and every day. All of their talk becomes just that - empty protest - as their actions contradict their words throughout the film. Many important themes emerge, including the emptiness of a disposable culture, or a culture of convenience; how one overcomes the dilemma of life by creating - by doing; how modern man is imprisoned in his own self-awareness; how, when it comes to expressing how we really feel, words are just not up to the occasion; how sterile shopping malls are 'the television you walk around in' and give the illusion of community, and finally; how the myth of travel makes the place where you are less substantial, and any single choice almost unbearably tentative.
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