Plot Alex (Nevins), a skateboarder, falls in with an older crowd at the local skate park and trespasses on a nearby railroad depot. While riding a freight train he is accosted by a security guard, and the resulting tussle leads to a shocking accident that haunts him.
You know you’re not in Hollywood anymore when the main character’s Uncle Tommy turns out to be Christopher Doyle, the bad-boy cinematographer whose prowess behind the lens is exceeded only by his performance in the bar. But then, Gus Van Sant hasn’t been in Hollywood for a while. Although he made his name with big-name indie fare, and even flirted with the studios, Van Sant has not simply gone back to his roots but even further, using non-professionals and an experimental style more extreme than the one he began with.
Van Sant’s conversion began with desert ordeal Gerry, followed by Columbine essay Elephant, and Kurt Cobain homage Last Days. But although Paranoid Park also features an unexpected (and untypically gory) death, this latest film stands apart from that trilogy. To those who find all these films boring anyway, the difference will be negligible, but to those who think Van Sant has stumbled on a provocative new style when most of his peers are foundering, it seems he’s getting more radical in his old age.
With Doyle behind the lens, the film has a different look to Van Sant’s previous collaborations with Harris Savides; at once strangely elegant and dishevelled. Riding the concrete waves of the skate park, Doyle’s camera rolls and bodyswerves through its protagonist’s playground, the Paranoid Park of the title. The same goes for the film’s extraordinary score, a mash-up of alt-rock and jarring classical that creates a mood quite unlike Van Sant’s previous efforts.
However, this isn’t simply an avant-garde exercise. Van Sant has a particular flair for casting, and the teens assembled here are far removed from the kids of The OC, complete with spots, puppy fat and endearingly clumsy attempts at fashion sense. Best of all is newcomer Gabe Nevins as Alex, whose stuttering voiceover punctuates the film. At first, his performance seems odd and borderline amateur, but over time Van Sant plays his hand to reveal the true depths of Alex’s despair. There’s no resolution as such, but that’s the importance of this small but engrossing film. In a world at war, where Iraq means almost nothing to the youth of America, Alex’s late-coming conscience lights up the surrounding gloom like a fireball.
Verdict Van Sant’s low-key, experimental high-school drama is an affecting rites-of-passage tale, told with bold style and quiet integrity.
but I admit, it may not be for everyone.
Gus Van Sant has taken a large risk hiring pretty much unknown actors with the exception of Gossip Girl and 'The Grinch' star, Taylor Momsen. In my opinion, it was a fantastic decision. The film has alot going on throughout it. My friends were really confused but it wraps up sweetly and fantastic in the end. I'm not going to go about saying to everyone how brilliant it is, because its not everyones cup of tea. For those who prefer adrenaline fueled film... More
Fascinating, haunting stuff. As always with Van Sant, I was left wondering what the point of certain scenes and characters were, but I felt like this film went beyond Last Days and Elephant in terms of style and beauty as well as allowing itself to be more engaging and engrossing. I particularly enjoyed the fragmented, sometimes repetitive timeline, as if Alex is struggling to remember and going over things again and again in his mind. Compelling stuff. ... More
Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in a tough skate park in Portland. With an ingenious structure and the impressionist camerawork of wizard cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Van Sant succeeds in giving the viewer an insight into the psyche of an unsure, scared teenager who causes a ghastly accident. ... More
while i expected a film like this to be thoroughly pretentious and up it's own arse i was instead treated to an idiotic, poorly acted, ridiculous movie about literally nothing. had this movie been a thirty minute short it may have worked since the majority of the film was made up of shots that lasted five times as long as anyone would expect them to. this is seriously truly awful. ... More
Gus Van Sant's latest, about a teenage skateboarder in Portland, Oregan, who is involved in a terrible crime/tragedy/accident and has to endure being grilled by the police, his friends and girlfriend, and separated parents, lost in a sea of disaffection. Or something.
The fourth in Van Sant's Death quadrilogy if you like, including Elephant, Gerry, and Last Days. Elephant got my film of the year that year (though I wouldn't extend that to it now), Gerry was ... More
Plot: Alex (Nevins) is a teen who likes skatboarding but isn’t very good at it — he’s not ready for Paranoid Park, a skate park built illegally by local street kids. Haunted by the guilt of his unintentional involvement in a man’s death, Alex decides to write a letter of confession.
I imagine this will be a polarizing film. I don’t just mean because it’s Gus Van Sant: if you don’t like voyeuristic takes of beautiful, unknown teenagers, long, pointless... More