Hmm, what adjectives could I use to accurately describe Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park from 2007. It was artistically shot, thoughtfully written and covered powerful and important themes. Van Sant, who wrote the film, knows how to approach a heavy-handed topic and display it in a way that is sensitive, i.e. Elephant. Van Sant also knows how to direct is such a unique way. His resume includes Psycho, Good Will Hunting, Paris, I Love You and Milk.
This film didn’t have a ton of dialogue. But it did have a great narrative from main character Alex, played by unknown actor Gabe Nevins. Alex is somewhat of a loner at school. He doesn’t speak a lot but loves to watch the world around him, especially skateboarding. Which I don’t blame him, the skate-park where the film takes place, Portland, Ore., is somewhat memorizing to watch. Alex gets wrapped up with the wrong crowd and there’s an accidental murder. The viewer finds out what happens through a letter Alex is writing to a friend.
The order of the film was fragmented but it worked perfectly. It wasn’t frustrating or hard to follow and made the whole film more suspenseful. Having to figure out what was going on with Alex was like solving a mystery. We only got small clues until we finally got it all, and that crawling part on the railroad (you’ve got to see it first) was one of the most memorable in the film, for me at least. The ending was very open-ended and makes you think life will be fine for Alex, despite the mix up with crime. I still don’t know how I feel about that. The film’s shots were really interesting. There were a lot of moments were the camera would just focus on Alex is a close-up shot for five minutes. It got a little too long sometimes and I found myself slightly bored during those moments, but the boredom quickly passed once Alex got back to writing down his mystery.
I think the actors in the film were really just plucked out of a local high school and given a script. They didn’t seemed trained at all. But I liked that because it made the atmosphere of the high school more authentic. One actress in the film does stick out though, Taylor Momsen (“Gossip Girl” and the band The Pretty Reckless). She had a small role and it was really funny to see her in this film knowing that she became a much better, more confident actress.
If you want to see a sensitive, artistic portrayal of heavy themes that affect everyone, not just teens, than you should invest the hour and a half in this film. If you enjoyed Elephant, you will like this. Gus Van Sant should be on everyone’s list to see.