Published Mar 21, 2008Paranoid Park is another meditation on the impact of violence on teenage life by director Gus Van Sant. This film has skater boy Alex (Gabe Nevins) writing/telling the story of his complicity in the death of a security guard near the site of the titular skateboard park. The events are revealed out of order, disjointed and elliptical, mirroring Alexs reluctance to face up to the truth. The camera follows Alex closely as he sleepwalks through his life, trying to ignore the mounting guilt and panic.
The teenage actors, cast via MySpace, are pretty authentic, if a little rough around the edges. As Alex, Gabe Nevins has the weight of the picture on his shoulders and does portraying the characters blank facade and the terrified turmoil lying beneath. However, he stumbles over his storytelling a bit, making it sound a little like hes being forced to read his English composition aloud in class.
Director Van Sant establishes the mood of the film with lingering close-ups and long walking shots (a style he perfected with Elephant). These are inter-cut with scenes of random skateboarding, lovingly shot in grainy Super-8. The soundtrack is quite interesting, using an eclectic variety of styles (folk, classical, country, ambient French music, etc.), which are often directly at odds with the images they accompany.
The scripts structure of piecing things together bit-by-bit drives the story forward and keeps it from getting bogged down in the heaviness of the material or the inertia of the lead character. Unfortunately, once the truth is finally revealed, much of that tension is lost and the rest of the film meanders to a close. (Maximum)