Writers/directors Gary Burns and Jim Brown make use of their distinct backgrounds (Burns is a surrealist filmmaker, while Brown is a journalist) to upend our notions of suburbia.
Radiant City travels into the wilds of new suburban enclaves with their cocoon-like homes and super-strip-malls that leave families disconnected from others in their "communities" and ultimately from themselves. Talking heads describe how urbanites are "fleeing from others" not like them (this language is locked in age-old code that is part racially motivated, part economically motivated) for the safety of communities that were intended to mirror the small-town centers of another time. But these centers have increasingly become something else entirely -- to the point where we might not be able to reverse the movement and reclaim the communities and neighborhoods we so desperately sought. Radiant City plays a rather sophisticated trick on its viewers, one that most will not see coming. Yet Burns and Brown are interested in far more than giving audiences what we've come to expect from television sitcoms, dramas and the reality shows that now dominate the airwaves with their fabricated situations and heightened, unrealistic focus on interpersonal drama. This City is real because its mirror is not a funhouse frame but a true reflection of who we are right now behind our enclosed facades. Radiant City is striking and sad. (tt stern-enzi) Grade: B+