Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Mayo is sick." REVIEW

Paranoid Park-2008-Gus Van Sant


"I don't know if I'm ready for Paranoid Park" Alex says while skateboarding down an empty sidewalk with his friend Jared. Jared replies with assurance, "Yeah, but no one's ever really ready for Paranoid Park."

And so goes Gus Van Sant's film, released earlier this year. Paranoid Park is a work of lush visuals, deliberate yet soulful pacing, and cinematic experience. The film isn't told through basic story telling techniques, but told through the mind of a teenage boy who is revealing his guilt to us, one memory at a time.

In Paranoid Park we follow Alex, a young skateboarder stuck in the middle of everything. He has a best friend he skates with, a girlfriend he wants to break up with, and parents who are separated. Throughout the course of the film we witness a horrific accident that Alex is somehow involved in that offers him a tidal wave of guilt and fear.

What Van Sant brilliantly executes with such an idea is to not set us into any cliche' territory. This could easily become some sort of neo-noir or detective film, or it could easily become a gripping drama about a teenage kid dealing with teenage life. Instead, Van Sant simply allows us to experience the inner workings of Alex's head. Much like the 8mm footage of the skateboarders going up and down effortlessly throughout the lively hills and dips of the skatepark, we are lost in Alex's head, just drifting, hoping we just land without a problem.
Alex is given advice by a friend to write down his thoughts, just to get them out. We see, various times, Alex, slowly writing the words on paper; Paranoid Park, as if each letter is fighting to stay within the led of the pencil. Through this letter, we get Alex's narration, performed perfectly by Gabe Nevins, who is a non-actor. It's almost as if the words aren't written. The way in which Alex speaks is so honest that it's hard to believe that these words didn't just find themselves on the tip of his tongue just before he speaks them. Van Sant casts the entire film to perfection, with the exception of Alex's girlfriend Jennifer(Taylor Momsen) who is truly awful. Ironically enough, she is, I believe, the only actual actor in the film. She played Cindy Lou Who in Ron Howard's totally forgettable How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

The score is also a form of brilliance. It's lush instrumentals and soft rhythms add to the ebb and flow of the film, which rolls along as if it were an ocean, rhythmically moving, like it's known no other form of movement.
By the time we reach the end of the 80 minute's or so, you realize how perfectly timed and paced Van Sant made this film. It is rare to see such confidence by a director. Van Sant seemed to know exactly what he wanted to do with every cut, every long take, there isn't a second wasted.

In a time where skateboarders in film have become stereotyped to either encapsulate idiotic punks, or uber cool kids who just replaced a football with a skateboard, it's nice that Van Sant had the capacity to actually make a film with skateboarding, and not allow cool tricks or radical dudes to take over the screen. Paranoid Park is just a simple, intimate portrait of a teenager dealing with guilt and fear. Don't expect a climax, or pay off in the end, that's not what this film is, it's almost like a journey that you are only in the middle of once the credits start rolling.


darkcitydame4e said...

Hi! D.P.,
From your very nice review this sounds like a very interesting film. I most definitely,will check it out!...While counting down film critic Dean Treadway's top 30 films I notice that he place director Gus Van Sant's 2003 film Elephant on his list too!...dealing once again with teenagers "internal"
dcd ;-)

Dead Pan said...

Van Sant is a very interesting director. He's got his own style and is really daring.