Favorite

Teen-age goldmine 

Gus Van Sant drills deep (and tediously) in ‘Paranoid Park.’

0410movie_image1.jpg

If there is such a thing as a psychological and cultural petri dish, it's high school. Small wonder then that high schools have been chosen as the backdrop for countless dramas and comedies. Half-formed rational minds battling raging hormones and crippling self-awareness in an authoritarian setting. Bottomless gold to be mined.

There's also a lot of mundanity and isolation, a lot of silent crying out, and it's this that Gus Van Sant tries to capture in “Paranoid Park,” his newest independent film.

“Paranoid Park” is the story of a young skater named Alex who's dealing with the impending divorce of his parents, the looming specter of sex with his virgin girlfriend, a need for acceptance among older and more talented skaters, and the memory of accidentally killing a man.

Alex finds escape from his girlfriend and parents at a popular skate park known as Paranoid Park. It's a vicious and scary place, but Alex finds himself drawn to the talents and experiences of the older skaters. There he meets one of the residents of the park, who offers to take him on a freight train ride. On the train, they're accosted by a security guard, who Alex tries to knock away with his skateboard. The guard falls under the wheels of another oncoming train and Alex is left alone, wondering whom he can tell.

Van Sant gives us a note-perfect portrayal of teen-age life here, realistic enough to dredge up some of those old fumbling pubescent emotions you worked so hard to shed. He also clearly and vividly evokes Alex's fog and alienation — there is nowhere he can go that seems to suit him, except where he is alone. There is no one he can talk to, other than the notebook where he writes about what happened.

As we follow him from place to place, we're shown the poetry of small things that he sees but cannot express, usually painted as dream-like montages: kids leaping through the air on their boards, a field of weeds dancing in the wind, a penetrating smile from the acne-scarred face of a teen-age girl. This is briefly shattered by the death of the security guard, a grisly scene that demolishes the mundane in Alex's life, only to fling him headlong back into it. Alex is now even more alone than before, shuffling through the same unstable world but shouldering a weight no kid can carry.

The story itself is compelling stuff, but unfortunately Van Sant takes us through it at a glacial pace. Even with a running time of 84 minutes, the movie is far longer than it should be. When he has new things to tell us, the movie is very good, but I sat through much of it waiting for those moments to come. Sometimes those slow-motion montages of his begin to feel like the real reason he made the movie in the first place, as if he adapted the story for the screen just to show us some pretty pictures he had in his head. On the downbeats, the movie is ponderous, sometimes cloyingly so.

Much like teen-age life, you might retort, and suggest that that was Van Sant's point, but there's a fine line between depicting the tedium of life and actually being tedious. “Paranoid Park” does both, and the result is not a bad film, but a far cry from the best he has to offer.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Matthew Reed

Readers also liked…

  • Gay diamonds

    Scenes from Rodeo in the Rock.
    • May 7, 2015
  • Not much to 'Love'

    In Judd Apatow's new Netflix original series.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Movie Reviews

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Resurrection, reflection

    • http://hairtransplantncr.com/ hair transplant in delhi hair transplant ncr hair transplant cost hair transplant cost in…

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation