Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Paranoid Park (2007)

Based on Blake Nelson's novel, Paranoid Park is about a skateboarder called Alex (Gabe Nevins). Alex is quiet and exudes a lonely stoicism. He and his friends hang out at a skate park called Paranoid Park. One weekend, a solo Alex visits Paranoid and meets some new friends. That night, as he's exploring the nearby rail yards with them, a brush with a security guard leads to chaos and an incident that goes terribly wrong. Alex is left with fear that if he's found out, he will be held responsible for the end result. As time and a police investigation progress, Alex's burden grows. With his beautifully innocent face, it's difficult to tell if Alex is sad, depressed or numb--most likely, a combination of the three.

The movie explores his relationship with three women. His mother is around but there's some detachment. She's attentive; you get the feeling he's not exactly neglected but he's fallen through the cracks of his parents' separation. He's also dealing with the newness and uncertainty of teenage life and his girlfriend, Jennifer's (Taylor Momsen), budding sexuality and desire to lose her virginity. His most successful female relationship is with his friend, Macy (Lauren McKinney).

Paranoid Park is told anachronistically. It's visually lush and surreal. Frequently, there is no talking, no sounds. Van Sant has a penchant for long shots of folks walking (this one is no exception). There's little action and loss of innocence is the strong theme. At film's end, you are left as empty as Alex, wondering if he will keep his secret or if he'll snap under the hearty burden. Either way, you are left complicit in the depths of his guilty conscience.

Director: Gus Van Sant

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Run time:  85 minutes

Scale: 3.5

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