The first act of “Landscape with Invisible Hand” is its most intriguing and functional. Here, the serious tone (offset by winks of sarcastic humor) feels balanced with the film’s action. A series of paintings made over the years by young artist Adam (Asante Blackk) introduce the audience to what’s happened to society: Aliens called the Vuvv have made contact with Earth. Almost everyone has been put out of work by hyper-efficient Vuvv technology; the only good employment is now being in service to the Vuvv.
Adam’s family might have been upper-middle class at one point — his mom (Tiffany Haddish) was a lawyer — but now they’re struggling to get by. Chloe (Kylie Rogers) and her family are even worse off, escaping homelessness by living with Adam’s family. If a school lesson taught by a cartoon Vuvv tips towards the sillier side of things, the violent scene following it, involving a laid-off human teacher, makes it clear that Finely cares most about conveying a mood of tragic desperation.
Adam and Chloe start making money by livestreaming their romantic relationship for the entertainment of the Vuvv, who are asexual but amused by human mating rituals. At this point, it seems as if the movie’s found a vein of humor that fits with its bleakly grounded tone. But things get significantly less grounded when Adam and Chloe get sued by the Vuvv, which leads them on an excursion to the floating ships above the city to meet their alien overlords. The strange design of these creatures is a mix between the butts from “Doom Patrol,” Creech from “Monster Trucks,” and the homophobic slug from “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
The plot then takes another ridiculous turn as it explores teaching aliens the meaning of love via pretend marriage. It even becomes “WandaVision” for a bit, with one of the aliens wanting to imitate ’50s sitcoms. This leads to the alien learning misogyny, without really getting what gender is. There’s more family drama for both Adam and Chloe, and more class and capitalism commentary. Finally, we reach the didactic ending, in which “Landscape with Invisible Hand” decides its main thesis is about censorship and not selling out the message of your art. That’s not even getting into the themes that are crammed into single bits of dialogue, including an environmentalist defense of the Vuvv that’s never addressed again and a single allusion to racial issues that feels like a lazy attempt at provocation. It’s a lot, and none of it really works as either satire or storytelling.