Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a teenager whose parents are getting divorced, and whose main interest is skateboarding. His friend Jared (Jake Miller) urges him to go to Paranoid Park with him, the infamous concrete park built by and for skateboarders, which attracts a variety of youngsters for a variety of reasons. Alex finally summons the courage to go, and when one of the regulars, Scratch (Scott Green) suggests they go freight train riding, Alex agrees. But the security guard (John 'Mike' Burrowes) sees them and as Alex tries to fend him off, the guard stumbles backwards into the path of another train. Alex says nothing to anyone about it.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I haven't read the novel, but if it's as oblique, elliptical, unformed and self indulgent as the film, I haven't missed much. Gus Van Sant's interest in teenage angst continues here (for more, see Last Days and Elephant), but with an even greater sense of artistic abandon. He's no David Lynch, though, and the result of the abandon just seems silly. The central event in the film is the accidental death of a security guard, and it is presented in almost ludicrous fashion, but it becomes a mere gimmick in a film devoid of genuine dramatic tension, accessible characters or even a decent story.
It is a French co-production which might explain the inexplicable French mumbling at the start of the film as part of the soundscape; it may also explain the inexplicable 60th Anniversary Prize the film received at Cannes in 2007. Perhaps the jury was so dumbfounded it felt the film must be saying something important that they should have 'got'.
Newcomer Gabe Nevins is a fresh faced, naïve young man of around 16, who makes almost the entire the journey through the film without registering emotion - and that is what Van Sant wants. He is suppressing the guilt and we are expected to imagine that this will either explode out of him or devour him in some awful way. But we don't see any of that, which adds to our dissatisfaction and frustration.
And if you're hoping for clues in the music, don't bother; Van Sant has selected music from Nino Rota's compositions for Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits & Amarcord, some Beethoven, some soft pop and a closing Country song - none of which is at all relevant to the moments in the film where they are used. This is the sign of a conceit that serves to amuse the filmmaker, but not his audience.
Email this article
PARANOID PARK (M)
CAST: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Taylor Momsen, Jake Miller, Lauren McKinney, Winfield Jackson, Joe Schweitzer, Scott Patrick Green, John Michael Burrowes
PRODUCER: Charles Gilibert, Nathaneal Karmitz, Neil Kopp
DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant
SCRIPT: Gus Van Sant (novel by Blake Nelson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christopher Doyle, Kathy Li
EDITOR: Gus Van Sant
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jason Pearson-Denning
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 6, 2008