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Paranoid Park 2008

R CC
3.4 out of 5 stars (41) IMDb 6.7/10

In this thriller from Gus Van Sant, a teen skater accidentally kills a security guard and slips into an inner world of mesmerizing paranoia.

Starring:
Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu
Runtime:
1 hour, 24 minutes

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Alex, the narrarator and protagonist of "Paranoid Park", is not your typical romanticised culluloid teen. He is quiet, introspective, and near mute when it comes to verbalizing his feelings. He is the antithesis of a sullen, vapid adolescent skater. On the contrary, I found his parents to be vapid. When he speaks to them, what they say hardly makes an impact, because their efforts to really get through to him are ineffective. It's like carrying out an inane conversation with a stranger in which nothing is really said. Pleasantries are exchanged, but little beyond superficial subjects is broached.
The aftershock of a gruesome accident has left Alex shell-shocked. The entire film is about the way guilt haunts him like a shadowy executioner. Close-ups of his friends' faces emphasize the way he searches their expressions for the slightest hint of accusation. Alex lives in a world that offers little joy. His parents are getting divorced, and he has dislocated himself to the lonely confines of a journal. The journal is his confidante, his only witness to paralyzing emotions that stalk him during his waking hours.
Alex's character is not glorified in any way. He is awkward like most teens, he is not an expert skateboarder, and is reluctant to venture down the concrete slopes of the skate park carved under a colossal bridge. He is drawn toward Paranoid park because he seeks something resembling companionship and family. Jumping a boxcar leads to a fatal and grisly accident. Alex must live with the consequences of this mistake, which leads to intriguing questions about morality and the complexities of unintentional manslaughter. Gus Van Sant is not interested in the cogs of the judicial system, however, he is interested in the tormented machinery ticking away inside the young skater's head.
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Format: DVD
There are 2 well known aggregate movie review sites, MetaCritic and Rotten Tomatoes that would give this film an average of 4 stars out of 5. (The NY Times review in particular is dead on, imho.) The 1 star "total bomb" reviews here are completely out of sync with accepted opinion of Paranoid Park.

Obviously, it's not for everyone. It is more for those that could appreciate Elephant or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days than someone looking for an action skater flick. But it will go down as one of Gus Van Sant's best films in what is already a distinguished career. It's one of the most beautiful movies of recent years and the score and sound mixing is stupendous. But it takes some time and attitude adjustment to get into the flow with the film. It's well worth the time and almost demands multiple viewings.

As with Elephant, many of the young actors are novices at best. This is not a drawback at all. It only enhances the movie because the characters are so real.

Did I say it's one of the most beautiful films of recent years? Slow motion skaters, the train scene scored to a key passage from Beethoven's 9th, the shower scene, the beach, beautiful boys, beautiful girls, not so beautiful girls, losing ones virginity- all in beautiful slow motion scenes told out of sequence, often with no dialog and sometimes repeated to underscore certain points. Two signature Elliott Smith songs, played almost in their entirety, accompany two long and unedited shots of the title character to create two more memorable moments.

One of the best of 2007 and deservedly so...
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I read the book, which is your basic average lo-qual 'teen fiction' - America should be embarrassed by the level of prose we feed our kids, I read more challenging stuff than this when I was 6 - and wanted to see the movie because a) it's about skaters, and b) Taylor Mumsen's in it.
The skating is the best part of the movie, instead of pros you get actual kids doing things actual kids actually do at the skate park.
Another positive is the fact that the director uses real teenagers to portray teenagers, as opposed to most American films and TV shows, which tend to give such roles to people in their 20's or even 30's.
The acting may not be top-notch, but it's REAL, almost like a documentary rather than a dramatized movie.
Taylor Mumsen's part is, disappointingly, very small.
The progression of the story is very jumbled, sort of like a series of flashbacks in reverse, might confuse people who haven't read the book.
The result feels more like a European 'art' film, but since someone has a gun and someone gets killed, it is definitely American.
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I respect Gus Van Sant's work on the whole, but it's hard to stick with this one until the end. There's barely enough substantial material here to fill out just half of its short 1' 24" running time (and that's including several repeat scenes). It vacillates between being a fuzzy, slow-mo, shaky-camera meditation piece, and an authentically awkward teen narration about a rather grisly "accident." Probably the best scene is when the protagonist debates with himself about how to deal with it; probably the worst scene is the end when he avoids all responsibility by writing it down and then burning it. On top of that, it's not plausible that he could just skate (pun intended) like that if his DNA (and surely the victim's) were found on his board. Although the irregular pacing probably does a good job of simulating the protagonist's "dazed and confused" state of mind, it doesn't make for compelling viewing. It was a relief when it ended, but hardly satisfactory.
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