Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review - Paranoid Park (2007 - Dir. Gus Van Sant)

Paranoid Park starts promisingly enough. Some cool slow-motion footage of skateboarders doing their tricky tricks and an intriguing murder mystery kick off the proceedings. Skateboarding and murder: I'll go with that.

The story is told in a disjointed fashion through flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks) and skateboarder Alex's writing (Gabe Nevins). It all sounds quite interesting doesn't it? Then there is some more cool slow-motion footage of skateboarders doing their tricky tricks. 

At the halfway point we get to see the actual murder; it's fairly easy to guess what happened, if not the details. Then the film dies a death. Paranoid Park is based on the novel of the same name by Blake Nelson. The book will obviously be really good at portraying Alex's thoughts. The film? Not so good. What you do get are unending shots of a teenager moping around, for scene after scene without the story advancing in the slightest. This is all probably quite true to life, but if I wanted to see a sulking teenager then I'd watch a... teenager. Then there are some more cool tricky tricks. 

As you might have gathered, there is a lot of skateboarding action. At the start it sets the tone and gives the film a pleasing atmosphere. By the end it feels like it has only been included due to a lack of actual story and it starts to grate. This also applies to the structure of the film. 

The ending made me think that Alex had been given a convenient 'Get Out of Jail Free' card, and that he didn't seem too cut up about what had happened; more that he just wants to keep it all a secret and not get caught. This fits with the theme of the film but doesn't make Alex particularly likeable. Which can be okay, as long as the protagonist is empathic. I found Paranoid Park too dull and slow-moving to build any empathy for Alex.

On a positive note the cinematography and music are both great. Whether you like Paranoid Park or not seems to hinge on what you think about the atmosphere. For me, it could possibly have worked as a short. As a feature?


If you like this you could also try:
Last Days, Brick.


  1. I never heard of this movie but it does look like it was filmed beautifully. That's a plus!

    1. It is gorgeous to look at and the music is pretty great too. The underlying story was so slight it all felt a bit empty to me. From looking at other reviews after writing this, it seems that this film has split people. So it's maybe worth giving it a try.