- Written by Randal C. Hill Randal C. Hill
Located 20 miles from Ocala in central Florida, The Villages began decades ago as a sprawling trailer park before being reconfigured along the lines of such thriving retiree havens as Sun City, Arizona.
The Villages offers 33,000 manicured acres and is often called “Disney World for retirees.” It is home to over 122,000 seniors, most of them bent on having fun each and every day there.
Homeowners can enjoy myriad activities and can select from a smorgasbord of 3,000 activities and clubs, recreate on 42 golf courses, and be entertained by the likes of the Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, and Bobby Rydell.
In the forthcoming movie Some Kind of Heaven, residents are shown gleefully dancing — there’s lots of that — as well as golfing, shooting pool, and making music. To many, life there is “like being on vacation every day.”
Many. But not all.
For two months, filmmaker Lance Oppenheim befriended numerous cheerful residents of The Villages, but he also became interested in a small group of people who are dealing with life’s often-daunting problems.
“I began to observe this overwhelming sense of pressure that some felt in the community to have fun all of the time,” he says. “There was almost an unspoken social contract that dictated life there, tied into the idea that as you grow older, time runs out, and as time runs out, every moment has to be great.”
As the Florida-born producer/director discovered, some people find life there far from great:
• Anne and Reggie Kincer, in the documentary’s most dramatic thread, admit their 47-year marriage is in jeopardy as Reggie experiments with — and develops an appetite for — illegal drugs.
• Newly widowed ex-Bostonian Barbara Lochiatto (one of the few residents who still works full time) feels uncomfortable and intimidated when she first plunges into the local dating scene.
• Dennis Dean is an 81-year-old gate-crashing nomad who lives out of his illegally parked van and is searching for a wealthy woman to support him in his dotage. Dean is also fleeing a mysterious California arrest warrant.
Some Kind of Heaven peels back the veneer of a prepackaged paradise to offer the viewing audience a chance to see what really lies beyond this ersatz utopia.
The 24-year-old Oppenheim claims, “My goal in making this film was to inhabit that fantasy and call it into question.”
He became intrigued by The Villages while working his way through classes in visual and environmental studies at Harvard University, from which he graduated in 2019.
His debut documentary is set for release Jan. 15.
Randal C. Hill enjoys getting sneak peeks of forthcoming movies from his home on the Oregon coast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.