Youth with­outoomph

PARA­NOID PARK Di­rected by Gus Van Sant. Star­ring Gabe Nevins, Tay­lor Mom­sen, Jake Miller, Dan Liu 15A cert, Cineworld/Movies@ Dun­drum/Screen, Dublin, 85 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MICHAEL DWYER

FOL­LOW­ING his in­trigu­ing and af­fect­ing Last Days, which fea­tured Michael Pitt as a rock star mod­elled on Kurt Cobain, Gus Van Sant re­turns to his home turf of Port­land, Ore­gon for Para­noid Park. The movie re­vis­its a theme – alien­ated young males – that has been a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of Van Sant’s work, most po­tently in My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Ele­phant, which won him the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2003.

To the sur­prise of many at Cannes this year, Para­noid Park took the fes­ti­val’s spe­cial 60th an­niver­sary prize while a far su­pe­rior US en­try, Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Coun­try for Old Men, went un­re­warded by the jury.

Fall­ing far short of Van Sant’s own most no­table achieve­ments, Para­noid Park is an­other of his low-bud­get, min­i­mal­ist movies fea­tur­ing mostly non-pro­fes­sional ac­tors, this time re­cruited through an open cast­ing call on MyS­pace. It plays like a weaker com­pan­ion pic­ture to Ele­phant, which fol­lowed two male stu­dents go­ing on a shoot­ing ram­page at their school.

The pro­tag­o­nist of Para­noid Park is an­other dis­af­fected teen. Alex is 16, liv­ing with his di­vorced motherand ev­i­dently more in­ter­ested in skate­board­ing than sex. Now that Van Sant fi­nally has dis­cov­ered skate­board­ing (can break­danc­ing be next?) he squan­ders time ad­mir­ing the ac­tiv­ity in what are es­sen­tially grainy mu­sic videos.

Para­noid Park is based on a novel aimed at young adults and adapted for the screen in a non-lin­ear struc­ture. On the ev­i­dence of the screen­play, the ma­te­rial is slight to be­gin with, and Van Sant de­lib­er­ately with­holds in­for­ma­tion to in­ject the later stages with a be­lated dra­matic kick.

There is, even­tu­ally, a moral dilemma, when Alex is sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the death of a rail­way se­cu­rity guard struck by a skate­board.

Van Sant re­plays sev­eral ap­par­ently ba­nal scenes that are given con­text and mean­ing by de­tails ever so grad­u­ally re­vealed. While the film may as­pire to a non­judg­men­tal point of view, it is clear that Van Sant em­pathises with Alex, but as so­cially con­cerned drama, his movie packs none of the punch one would ex­pect from Ken Loach, for ex­am­ple.

The sound­track is be­yond eclec­tic, giv­ing the im­pres­sion of ra­dio chan­nels be­ing changed reg­u­larly as it switches be­tween rap, metal, classical and coun­try mu­sic, and oddly bor­rows chunks of Nino Rota’s scores for Fellini films, which tend to swamp the slen­der, low-key na­ture of Para­noid Park.

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