Good , But It Is Overrated By Some
This is a coming of age storyline that you've seen in one form or another for decades. It takes a truly unique voice to make yet another one worth watching.
Easily the biggest piece of Right wing non sense propaganda I ever saw.
All of these films share one commonality, that being a kind of emotional center that humanizes a cast of monsters.
This is another masterpiece from the indomitable Wim Wenders. However, it is only a classic, not a hyper-classic like 'Paris, Texas' (1984) or 'Don't Come Knocking' (2005). Those two films engaged the viewer in desperate anguish and overwhelming emotion from the very first moments and sustained it throughout, whereas in this film, the emotional intensity and involvement only grab the viewer in the last third of the story. This is partly because the film was written and filmed so quickly, with no time for deep maturation of plot structure in order to discover subtler ways to pull the viewer in earlier. The title is ironical and comes from a song by Leonard Cohen, which is used near the end to the usual Wenders devastating effect. He has always been a master at punching us in the solar plexus with his sophisticated use of the best music. Here, as in the succeeding film 'Don't Come Knocking', the searing cinematography of Franz Lustig shows us surfaces beneath which we immediately plunge. The centrepiece of this film is the amazing Michelle Williams. In her, Wenders combines his recurring 'child motif' with his recurring 'angel motif', since Williams plays a character, Lana, who is primarily two things: (1) a 'former child', and (2) currently a working angel. Just as Wenders is probably the only mainstream director who has ever shown a man defecating on screen, in 'Kings of the Road' (1976), so here he may be the only one who has truly shown the intimate moments of silent prayer. And we are not talking of 'The Song of Bernadette' or any sentimental religious picture here, with its simulated devotions and piety, we are talking the real thing. Throughout the film, Williams is shown in extreme closeup whispering her ongoing dialogue with God, saying things like 'Thank you for this day, thank you for this room.' She asks for his blessings and in emergencies even his help. Williams has such extremely unusual personal qualities that she pulls this off completely. She looks like what she is off screen, a reader, a thinker, a collector of first editions. (I'm sure we must bid against each other on Ebay all the time.) Wenders has as usual used his stunning genius for casting to get the perfect match. He has also found another one of his brilliant character actors, always there but always overlooked for years, in John Diehl, to play the paranoid lost uncle, Paul. This is not at all a political film, it is as usual with Wenders a spiritual journey and a revelation of the bleakness at the empty heart of part of the American Dream. What could be emptier than Trona, California, shown here in all its barren devastation, and yet that empty place is where it all comes together, where the richness and redemption of the spirit take place in surroundings so desolate that it can only be The Material World which is being transcended right before our eyes. The ostensible subject of this film is post-September 11 America. But that is only an excuse for the true subject: the human spirit struggling against emptiness, fear, delusion, and loss to achieve some peace, some acceptance, some love and some fulfillment. There is nothing affected about Wim Wenders. He courageously attempts to say the deepest things in the deepest way that the screen allows. It is true that the character Paul is one of the most extreme characters imaginable, a man driven mad by dioxin poisoning and helicopter crashes as a special forces sergeant in Viet Nam. He has taken refuge in reenacting the lost War (which he insists obstinately 'we won') by trying to fight the new enemy, terrorism. He is a one-man surveillance vigilante in a van, who is determined to find the enemy this time and save his country. But it is all a pathetic delusion, and he is slowly and gently brought down from his 'high' into the truth about things by his patient 20 year-old niece whom he has not seen since she was a baby. Eventually, with infinite acceptance and caring, this crazed uncle achieves a grounding in reality after his years of torment, and comes to see the world with the unblinking eyes of Franz Lustig and the sad and tolerant vision of the child-angel. This film is another one of those Wenders miracles.
Perhaps the most significant thing about this film is the majority of the critical reception in America: While objectively speaking the film is not very critical of America, while it is one of the most balanced 9/11 films, it has been treated like the plague. This indicates the heavy self-censorship American media have imposed on themselves and ... reflects John Diels character Uncle Pauls paranoia nicely. Accurately. From the book "Vernon God Little" to "Land of Plenty", American reviewers, pundits, and 'intellectuals' are as sensitive as an eyeball to sand towards foreign commentary and critique of their society.I downloaded this movie by accident, looking for the similarly titled BBC drama "In a Land of Plenty". Upon seeing that Michelle Williams was in it, I decided not to delete it right away. Halfway through the pic I thought to look it up here, and learned then that Wim Wenders was directing it. And now you'll expect me to say that it was one these serendipitously great finds, a gem unknown, a great movie. Hmmm I can't, since I thought the film a tat too depressing for that.The character of Uncle Paul is all too paranoid, too realistic for my taste. I really don't think that this character is grossly distorted. The greatness about this character is threefold: a) As a viewer you're left unsure whether he's really mentally ill or not, b) he's surely representative of a part of the American population (hopefully not a large part, but I fear yes) and c) he's been greatly portrayed by Diehl. I detest him as much as J.R. Ewing was detested.As Europeans, we are used to think of Americans/Republicans as the winners, who despite their lack of intelligence, still manage to rule the world/the USA, who are winning because they all (more or less) have the white picket fence thing going on. This movie shows that not all right-wingers are indeed winners, that there are very sad and depressing people among them. It hits home that Po' White Trash is not a thing of the past. I mean, DUDE! This guy is a sad, sad figure.Of course the character of Lana is much more appealing and attractive, and I watched Michelle with open mouth every time she graced the screen with her deceptively natural acting.The only criticism I have of the film is in its end dialog: Paul asks why people cheered on 9/11. When Lana says "Because they hate us" it isn't made clear why the world hates America. Wenders either chickens out or loves his adopted country too much. Or, maybe he does indeed see both sides. The people of the world hate America, because Americans always side with the dictators and the oppressors: Pinochet, Videla of Argentina, the Israelis (and not with the Jews: in WWII they denied several Jewish requests for the bombing of concentration camps), Mubarak, Marcos of the Philipines, Apartheid etc. Aside from one time when it didn't, in Kosovo, Americans have always sided with torturing dictators to oppress the poor. We don't hate you because of your freedom. If we did that, we all attack Sweden and Holland. Smoke out Amsterdam (pun intended). We hate you because you could help us win our freedom with relative ease, but you choose not do so. Because otherwise you have to pay 2 cents more on the gallon for gasoline, god forbid!!
A must-see for anyone who is either a Wim Wenders fan or a person interested in the fears and hopes of contemporary America. German director in a brilliant way makes us ponder upon all the issues so essential to understanding American reality after 9/11. Ethnic prejudices, stereotypes, homelessness,terrorism, Vietnam war, pursuit for an identity, search for lost relatives - all these components are omnipresent, smoothly woven. Wenders mastery reveals in the fact that he manages to touch upon serious topics and in the same time introduce elements of humor and even grotesque. "Land of plenty" leaves us with the voice of Leonard Cohen and plenty of thoughts about relation between individual and contemporary world.
This film tries to catch the mood of how US try to relocate after 911. I can understand that if one are a republican they will not like this movie, but that doesn't take away the fact that this is a very good movie. You find the hyper paranoid Vietnam veteran that drives around LA trying to find suspected people that in his mind will be planning the next 911. In another thread of the story there is a young woman that comes home to US , a child of US missionary's from Africa, that comes home and see her country for the first time since childhood. What I have been told about this movie is that no distributor in the US want to take on this movie due to political reasons. Its sad because its a good movie.