And he may even have a girlfriend who looks like Avril Lavigne, but Gus Van Sant’s film about a teenage skater kid is a lot more meaningful than one might think…Enter Paranoid Park.Review by Gemma.
After the hit ‘Elephant’, Van Sant gets up close and personal with some more teens in ‘Paranoid Park’. This time it’s the turn of the skater kids and while the stereotypical on screen American teens are still present, we are also introduced to Alex (Gabe Nevins), a likeable boy of about 15, and, fortunately for us, the movie’s main character. Alex is not pretentious. He practices his skating in private because he’s not that good at it. He skates because it’s fun and in the rush of the wind, he can forget all his problems. He doesn’t care whether it’s cool or not. Alex believes there are more important things in the world to worry about. Ironically it’s his own problems that lead him to this theory. Eventually his head is so full, he needs to write it down…
Thus, we flick back and forth through Alex’ memories as he attempts to piece together his own life changing experiences. We discover that Alex has indeed experienced something traumatic, an experience that smothers all the trivial worries of teenage life. The ever accusing voice of his girlfriend is drowned out, and faces of his divorced parents disappear into the background. Until he has written everything down, Alex has no time for anything else. His story and the realisation it has brought him are too important. It is as if Alex is the confessor and we are the listeners, unable to comment but willing to listen.
Van Sant has adopted that old realism trick of using non professional actors to fill his roles and capture authenticity. Then again, I cannot be sure that Alex is a real life skater kid. Nevertheless, he is utterly convincing. It’s a pity I can’t say the same for his friend Macy(Lauren McKinney), or even his girlfriend Jennifer (Taylor Momsen), the one kid with some acting experience. (She was that girl with the whacky hairdo in The Grinch).
Van Sant allows for some memorable imagery. There are terribly poignant moments and there are settings that highlight Alex’ loneliness in his plight: a bench among the reeds near an empty beach for example upon which he sits to write in his notebook. Of course there are nice shots of the skaters too. It’s not flashy at all. In fact, it’s almost beautiful to watch. The camera takes us freewheeling up, down and around. Suddenly we understand why somebody like Alex would need to skate and just lose himself in the moment. For the rest of the time, he has to deal with life in the best way he can: by writing it all down and thereby providing us with one of the best movie narratives of the year so far.