The Planters  | Available Oct. 16–29


If you’re looking to cheer yourself up in a big way, clear a night this week for The Planters, an uncommonly good indie comedy and a kind of minor miracle in this Foul Year of Our Lord 2020.

Written and directed by lead actors Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder—rookie filmmakers with ridiculously bright futures—The Planters was filmed with no on-set crew. Kotcheff and Leder handled everything themselves, from design and cinematography to costumes and makeup. They actually shot The Planters before the pandemic, but their radically DIY approach could easily be a blueprint for making a feature film in quarantine conditions.

The story: Somewhere in the small desert towns of central California, Martha Plant (Kotcheff) is barely getting by as a work-from-home telemarketer. Her parents recently passed away—decapitated in a car accident, as it happens—and she’s desperately lonely. 

As a side gig, Martha has taken up “planting,” an entrepreneurial scheme where she buries trinkets in the desert, posts the GPS coordinates on flyers for local treasure hunters to find, then collects whatever cash they choose to leave as compensation.

“You should be proud, you’re doing something really asinine, and it’s working.” That’s Angie, one of three personalities living inside Sadie Mayflower (Leder), who was recently evicted from a mental health facility. Sadie moves in with Martha, and the two young women—four, really—develop a very deep, very weird bond as the adventures begin.

Kotcheff and Leder have created something special here—a character-driven comedy with a tiny budget, a great script, and some lovely performances. Kotcheff, as the tightly wound Martha, has the kind of precise comic timing you’re either born with or not. She delivers whole jokes just using her eyes. 

Leder, meanwhile, develops distinct characters for her multiple personalities. Also, watch for interstitial Bible jokes in stop-motion animation. It’s hard to explain.

There’s a little bit of Wes Anderson here, with the quiet wit and symmetrical visual compositions. But the film also operates on its own delightful comic wavelength, and you come to care about these two oddballs. It cheered me up mightily.

The Planters is available as an early release in a kind of virtual theatrical run via The Carolina Theatre’s website.

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