Sundance 2020: Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia, by David Bax
If it makes you feel safer to be able to assign a movie to a genre then you can call Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia, the first feature length movie from the Miami collective known as the Borscht Corporation, a “portmanteau film,” meaning an anthology film in which each entry is connected to the whole. Usually, these are horror movies but–while there are horror sequences to be found in Omniboat, like a tense sea monster thriller or a sci-fi-infused short story that manages to invoke both Rick Ross and Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam–there are also entries that range from sketch comedy to interpretative dance to tongue-in-cheek style parodies in various forms and aspect ratios. The center that holds it all together is no more than a single speedboat and no less than a validating cry from our fleeting location, here and now, on the downslope of human existence.
Omniboat‘s narrative throughline is the story of real estate developer Jim Cummings (Mel Rodriguez) and his increasingly quixotic dream of building a new shore-front luxury tower even as Miami’s waters are rising and the largest hurricane in the city’s history is on the horizon. Other than that, the movie consists of the various misadventures of the many owners of a cigarette boat named Lay’n Pipe 2. The surprisingly stacked cast playing these fortunate and unfortunate souls includes Jon Glaser, Rhea Butcher, Cameron Esposito, Adam Devine, Adam Pally, Finn Wolfhard, Luther Campbell, Casey Wilson, Danielle Schneider, Jessica Williams and Robert freaking Redford.
Boats like Lay’n Pipe 2 are status symbols so it’s no surprise how many of Omniboat‘s shorts concern people who identify with the vessel. Wilson’s character literally falls in love with it while Eliezer Castro’s abandons his family to live as the boat in a virtual reality space. At times, the boat itself is sentient. And in at least one other segment, this theme of identifying with the things we purchase extends to include a sea creature struggling to keep up with the money it owes on the human body it inhabits.
In that story, the term “affordability crisis” is invoked when it seems the creature is going to have to give the body back to the black magic dealer who sold it. Repossession is also the crux of Devine’s story, where he places an ostentatiously rich dude who has to abandon the speedboat when his fortunes change. The difficulty of maintaining opulence–and the difficulty of letting go of it–are fertile themes in a city that’s a hot vacation spot seemingly destined to be swallowed up by rising waters in the near future.
Jim Cummings starts the movie with a tribute to the enterprising, hard-working Americans who turned an uninhabitable swamp into a vibrant metropolis. Later, he refers to his own desire to build “something eternal.” Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia takes us on a wet and wild ride for two hours only to reminds us that the swamp is the only eternal thing in South Florida. And when it’s done with Miami, it’s coming for the rest of us.