Paranoid Park Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 26, 2008
This could have turned Gus Van Sant's "Death Trilogy" into a quadrilogy, if not for the fact that it's based on a novel as opposed to being inspired by a true story. I mean, that aside, it's still a rather minimalist, quiet, artsy film with a deliberate pace, and, like Elephant, features primarily unknowns, and deals with youth.

Gabe Nevins is Alex, a 16 year-old skateboarder who is a mostly decent and intelligent kid. Yeah, his parents are on the verge of getting a divorce, but it could be worse. He's got a cute girlfriend, despite their not being much of a connection between them, and he's also got another cute girl who is his confidante.

His life definitely spirals downhill when a run-in with a security guard results in a grisly, though accidental death. Now in a state of panic, confusion, and guilt, Alex tries his best to deal with the consequences and guilt of youthful recklessness.

I really liked this. It's not quite as ponderous or hard to get through as some of the entries in the aforementioned "Death Trilogy", but it's just artsy and indie enough to still let Van Sant retain some credibility with the non-mainstream crowd.

The film is all about tone, and is a deliberate look at the pains of being a teen. Gabe Nevins is great here. This was his first role, and he's a natural. I hope this doesn't end up being his only foray into cinema, as he's got a high level of naturalism and pathos. The only person who was known before this is Taylor Momsen as Alex's girlfriend Jennifer. She's not bad, and easily sheds the skin leftover from The Grinch, but even if she's decent, she's overshadowed by Nevins, or Lauren McKinney as Macy- Alex's BFF and confidante. I would love to see more from McKinney. Another highlight is Dan Liu as the suspicious detective investigating the case. He's a toughie, but also balanced. He might be authoritative, but he's fair, too.

The film is very well shot, and evokes an appropriately dreary mood to match the proceedings. There's also some slow-mo, which, as good as it is, might be just a tad bit overused, especially in a somewhat unnecessary long take that follows Alex around school. Don't get me wrong, I love long takes, and this one's well done, but it doesn't really feel necessary or motivated.

All in all, this is a fine film, though I'll admit that if this wasn't Van Sant, then it wouldn't really be anything to write home about, or at least not quite as worthy of your time.
Super Reviewer
½ April 3, 2012
'Paranoid Park'. Loved the look and non-linear, slowly unravelling scenes, but felt very detached from the main protagonist; maybe that's what Van Sant was going for.
Super Reviewer
½ September 3, 2011
A slow-burn exercise in guilt and the always troubled teenage lifestyle, especially one 16-year old (Gabe Nevins) who gets himself involved in a case concerning a dead security guard after it appears he may have been at the scene of the crime. The art of skateboarding has never been viewed through more adoring lenses than by director Gus Van Sant here, as he never misses an opportunity to use slow-motion shots to capture the beauty some particular skaters possess when it comes to their sport. However, sometimes he comes close to Zach Snyder super-duper slow-motion territory, in which it threatens to overpower the rest of his movie. However, Van Sant is a more skilled and polished auteur than Snyder will ever be, and as a result 'Park' works in a quiet, haunting way as it effectively captures what this particular character is going through. The film could be a little longer and some supporting characters could have used a little more meat, but that still does not take away from the almost inexplicably riveting tale Van Sant puts on screen here, despite the film possessing a lot of dead air and looks of detachment from its lead star.
Super Reviewer
½ February 26, 2011
I must admit the first time I watched Paranoid Park about a year ago I hated absolutely everything about it. From the long, slow motioned skating scenes to the acting( which I now see is actually very good because of how realistic it is). However, after watching it a second time, I think the film is brilliant. Although I still believe the some of the slow motion scenes could be taken out of cut. Like I said before, the acting is very realistic and I think that can turn a lot of people off. It seems, to some, that the actors are doing a horrible job because of just how realistic their performances are. Gabe Nevins is spectacular in the lead role as Alex. Alex is a 16 year old skater who is a self conscious and quiet person. The movie revolves around him and him only. He spends time with a couple of friends Jared(Jake Miller) and Macy(Lauren McKinney). He also has a girlfriend Jennifer(Taylor Momsen). The way Nevins carries himself in this role is great. He's like a lot of kids, when he's around others he's very uptight. He answers questions with few words and doesn't show any emotion. But when alone he changes. I love the car scene where a rap song is playing and he is moving to the music. If someone else was in the car, there is no way he'd do that. He tells us his story through a writing of a letter. I'm not going to say what the letter is about or who it is to. Alex is a deeper than normal teenager and we see that through his relationships. His best friend Jared is the typical teenager. All he cares about is having a good time and trying to get laid. Alex's girlfriend is pretty but that doesn't seem to matter to Alex. She wants to have sex, but he seems to just go along for the ride. The most important relationship is Macy though. This is someone who Alex actually connects with and likes, but she isn't pretty, so he, in my opinion has to hide his true feelings about her. Ultimately Paranoid Park is a great character study that was brilliantly directed by Gus Van Sant and acted by Gabe Nevins. If you don't like it the first time; do yourself a favor and give it another chance.
Super Reviewer
½ February 8, 2009
As with many of Gus Van Sant?s work, I don?t know whether this borders on slight genius or boring drawn out film making,, either way it does make you consider the possibilities.

On the up side of things the acting for such youngs guys is totally natural and really impressive,, intense throughout, the storyline interesting with a very realistic feel, the downside to that of course is that it is very drawn out and like most realistic things, it has an unusual ending.
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2010
I think with this and a lot of Gus Van Sant's other latest movies, you either love it or you hate it. I happened to really love it and thought it was a great way to tell a story. Instead of adding needless dialogue and subplots, the movie tells exactly what was necessary to tells Alex's story. I also think the acting was great, maybe because it was so believable. Alex walks, talks and responds like a 16 year old skater.
Super Reviewer
½ May 19, 2009
'Paranoid Park' is another minimalistic film, with mostly amateus actors, from the critically acclaimed director Gus Van Sant. With a filmography consisting such films as 'Good Will Hunting', which is absolutely one of my favourites, and 'Drugstore Cowboy' and now with his latest work 'Milk', Gus Van Sant has proved us all that he can make movies that will for sure be worth a look. But then again, he has made a remake of 'Psycho' so....

'Elephant', which he made in 2003, was a succesful film. 'Paranoid Park' resembles it a lot in the way of filmmaking. Amateur actors, authentic look and so on. This film has its positive sides, mainly the cinematography by Christopher Doyle, but when everything else doesn't give you anything particularly special, it can't really be that great.

Nothing much really happens here. Skater, high school kids just hanging around at Paranoid Park, watching other skaters do their thing. Then there's of course the everyday problems of dating and losing your virginity and listening to the annoying girlfriend. Oh yeah, and someone gets killed.

Although 'Paranoid Park' only lasts for less then 90 minutes, it may at times feel a bit draging and boring. I had troubles to identify myself with the main characters. I'm just a 30 year old man who was born in yokel surroundings. When I see skaters, once again, do their thing, I'm not that interested of it.

Even if the acting is solid, which is a great thing considering the amateur cast, when you skip everything else and leave just the murder, this could have worked better as a short film but not as a full length feature. But 'Paranoid Park' is in no way a bad work by Van Sant. I just don't see it as that special.
Super Reviewer
May 17, 2009
A stirring, subtle, visually remarkable piece by Gus Van Sant. If you saw flaws in Elephant, this rectifies them and expands on its companion piece's richness. Though the awful acting still remains, the situations Van Sant creates house them well - these kids aren't navigating particularly challenging or out-there roles, but instead are living the lives of a few ordinary teenagers who are in or around trouble. The awkwardness and lack of grandstanding (or presence of grandstanding, where appropriate) are a perfect fit for the teen experience. The only one who doesn't fit here is Taylor Momsen, who just feels far too accustomed to acting and movies and all that glossy desouled business. Gabe Nevins works as a good, solid blank slate, a perfect fit for a protagonist who isn't particularly bright or charismatic. He is stentorian and hard to read, almost enigmatic.

I was surprised to see that Christopher Doyle filmed this movie, but upon actually watching it, the work is clearly his. Colorful and sharply framed, he always knows what to keep in the viewer's sight and what to keep away from them. Paranoid Park, against all odds, is bizarrely suspenseful for an otherwise quiet movie. The viewer knows within the first ten minutes that Alex killed the security guard, but it doesn't make the buildup to the act any less horrifying. Watching the event unfurl, by the way, is one of the most powerful scenes of 2008; the less you know about it, the better.

Paranoid Park does ramble a little bit, and it feels as if Van Sant filmed 50 minutes of film and then just edited it all together really fancily to add another half hour. Even so, at 80 minutes, it's far more trim and meaningful than most of what you're likely to see.
Super Reviewer
½ January 24, 2008
Liked this one a lot. Beautifully filmed and acted, especially considering the cast are unknowns - they were all really good. I couldn't actually believe the bad reviews this one got. My only, (small), gripe would be that it could have been a little longer and a little less abrupt at the end, but with this type of movie, it is like life and shouldn't really expect all to tie up neatly at the end!
Super Reviewer
August 1, 2008
My kind of interesting film. A bit slow, but, still good.
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2008
Like his contemporary Larry Clark, Gus Van Sant is very good at capturing a certain slice of humanity, a certain generation or age-group or community, down to a tee. This is what he does in Paranoid Park, which is the story of a young skater from Portland who accidentally causes the death of a security guard at a train station and must deal with the moral consequences. The plot is really paper-thin because it doesn't go much beyond this single cause-and-effect, but what the film does is entrench the audience in the mind of Alex (played by Gabe Nevins, an amateur actor, like the rest of the cast). One thing I can say definitively is that Paranoid Park is extremely well shot. The cinematography work by Christopher Doyle (long-time collaborator with Kar Wai Wong, whose films always look amazing) is fabulous. Van Sant presents the film also in a variety of medium and plays around with the score and the background sound that it really does make one sit back and think when watching the film, in this way it's somewhat Brechtian but still able to be appreciated at face value because of the interesting main character and story. The film seems to be mainly be about communication, or lack thereof. But therein lies the only significant issue with the film, which is that Van Sant didn't fully communicate through the film what he obviously intended to, or at least not as concisely as he could of. There are skateboarding sequences shot in a fuzzy tone sprinkled throughout the film, sort of like Alex's daydream. It is clear that these are intended to represent the escapism of skateboarding, how it acts almost like a drug for Alex and his friends. And it makes us wonder whether the skateboarding is only there for him to have something there in his life, since he seems so detached from everything else. So, these sequences eventually get across what they mean to but they also become redundant and by the 3rd or 4th one one wonders whether they needed to be there at all. Like his film Elephant, Paranoid Park beautifully captures a section of American youth-culture and tells a compelling character story while doing so. Because of this, the great look of the film, and its good soundtrack (I dug the inclusion of a couple Elliott Smith tunes a lot), it's worth checking out.
Super Reviewer
½ February 22, 2008
Slight step down from the majesty of 'Elephant' as it tries to mix in a more mainstream 'who done it' plot. Some classic scenes are balanced by some patchy acting. Van Sant is still the master at capturing the otherworldly dream state of confusion in adolescence.
Super Reviewer
½ March 1, 2010
"Paranoid Park" is a moody and engaging film that follows Alex(Gabe Nevins), a high school skateboarder, as he tries to put the pieces of his life together during his parents'(Grace Carter & Jay Williamson) divorce, as he tunes them out. Telling his own story, he claims he would not be any good at creative writing but his nonsequential writing shows a possible aptitude at independent filmmaking. Everything comes back to the death of a security guard(John Michael Burrowes) that is being investigated by Detective Lu(Daniel Liu). He is talking to all of the local skateboarders due to the incident happening near Paranoid Park, a local skateboard park. Alex goes there with his friend Jared(Jake Miller) to feel grown-up and experience some of the freedoms that go along with being an adult, even as he may not have entirely grasped the responsibilities part of the equation. As close as he is to adulthood, Alex is not sure what kind of person he wants to become. Should he be the kind of person other people want him to be, stay in the safety of the surburbs with his cheerleader girlfriend Jennifer(Taylor Momsen) or hang out with his friends and venture to the other side of the river where there is possible danger?
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ May 30, 2014
The title of and, by extension, name of the skate park featured in this film sounds like a punk rock band, or a punk rock song, or a cheesy horror film... or a film about skateboarders. I knew that if we waited long enough, then we'd get an abstractionist Gus Van Sant drama whose title is actually relevant to the film itself, and I'm surprised that such a time came at the point in which Van Sant went full-blown French with his art films. Well, I don't know how much influence this film takes from its French roots anyways, because it's set in America, is by an American filmmaker, is English-language, and about skateboarding, which I didn't think France was cool enough to have. Shoot, I don't even believe that Portland, Oregon, is cool enough for skateboarding, even though that's kind of its thing, and I don't think that this film helped with that stereotype, because for whatever reason, this dorky little film about skateboarding is kind of abstract and intentionally unfocused. Oh, it's not like it's that much less exciting than "Lords of Dogtown"... or "Street Dreams", or "Tilva Ro", or "Gleaming the Cube", and so on and so forth. Well, it's amazing how many films about skateboarding are kind of dull, - ostensibly because a lot of them take place in Portland, Oregon - but at least plenty of them aren't so dull that you can't enjoy them, admittedly including this film, which, alas, doesn't see Van Sant completely doing away with his stylistic overambitions, at least not all the way.

What saves the film from falling to the mediocrity that claimed each installment in the "Death Trilogy" is largely its featuring a fair deal of more grounded storytelling attributes, and perhaps partly its being a little more realized with its overt artistic liberties, yet when it comes to the transitions between these two extremes in narrative stylization, it's as unrealized as ever, awkwardly jarring you between traditional and abstractionist storytelling styles, and making matters all the more awkward by not being as unique as it wants to be with either style extremes. No matter what the storytelling style is, it typically descends into tropes, breaking up genuinely refreshing dramatic and thematic elements with conventions that betray a potentially unique film, and make familiar issues all the more glaring. Again, when the film abandons a traditionalist style for abstractionism or experimentation, the artistic license usually isn't carried too far away, but when it does, it goes way out there, with ethereal visuals and atmospherics, and an intentionally draggy and disjointed narrative focus which, before too long, doesn't so much get to be uneven as much as it goes abandoned. One would expect to eventually get a grip on a film which follows a nonlinear narrative, and I suppose you can here, but it's just so difficult, and it's not long before, if anything, you have trouble feeling as though it's worth it to place investment in this unfocused, maybe even paceless opus. It doesn't help that Gus Van Sant's direction, while at the liveliest it had been in years with this project, often slips into dry spells, deriving from a thoughtfulness that, upon running out of material to soak up, drives momentum to a crawl that ranges from bland to, well, borderline tedious. All of these issues ruined Van Sant's preceding three films, and whether it be because he's trying to distinguish this artistic endeavor from the "Death Trilogy", or simply because he's starting to get a more comfortable understanding of experimental filmmaking, they're not as prominent, while strengths found in the other Van Sant films of this type feel brought more to light, thus, the final product is saved, but just barely, as it's still too uneven, overblown and, well, dull for its own good. Nonetheless, the film doesn't fall so often that it can't get back enough momentum to endear, at least as dramatically decent and, of course, stylistic solid.

Even the film's soundtrack is aesthetically sound, getting to be a little too diverse for its own good, to the point of incorporating a lame hip-hop tune and punishing hardcore punk tune, but generally delivering on plenty of respectable tunes which liven things up, as surely as a very French, unoriginal soundscape, if not classical score capture the abstractionist feel for this drama with haunting taste. The visual style further adds to the more effective artistic flavors of this effort, with Christopher Doyle and Rain Kathy Li delivering on cinematography that is often simple, and just as often breathtaking, with crisply well-defined emphasis on certain distinguished areas in lighting, if not color that, when met with such intriguing images as grainy tracking shots of skateboarding, proves to be hypnotic. The film is sometimes captivatingly beautiful, musically and visually, I'm not going to lie, and that most reflects the stylistic inspiration which sets this endeavor a fair ways away from something like the "Death Trilogy", and it helps that, this time around, Gus Van Sant has a bit of a better idea on how to play with both the style and the substance. Mind you, there are times in which Van Sant goes right back to being misguided in a manner that threatens to ruin the final product with artistic bloatings, but on the whole, you really can see Van Sant both returning to his roots as an effective traditionalist dramatic filmmaker, and making solid progress as a minimal artistic filmmaker, to where style and atmosphere are utilized in a thoughtful way that is often genuinely immersive and sometimes subtly powerful in doing justice to worthy subject matter. This film's story concept is a little obscured by an artistically overblown and intentionally disjointed, if not unfocused interpretation, but not as much as the narratives of the near-totally abstractly structured "Death Trilogy" installments, for Van Sant opens enough room for you to get a grip on themes regarding a teen's awkwardness being exacerbated by a terrible secret whose heart is kept pumping by aforementioned heights in dramatic storytelling, and by consistent heights in acting. Well, maybe the acting heights aren't too recurrent, considering sparsity's limiting material for the performers to work with, but if nothing else in this film is consistently compelling, it's the efforts of 16-year-old newcomer Gabe Nevins, who nails the awkward teen traits with a certain charm, in addition to a subtlety that, on top of feeling nuanced in its naturalism, graces emoting highlights with a piercing grace which anchors the dramatic heights of this very intimate character study. The film may let itself down time and again, but the very young and very talented Nevins is never less than endearing, which isn't to say that there aren't enough other elements which endear you to the final product as a reasonably intriguing drama, with solid highlights, limited though they may be by artistic flimsiness.

Overall, storytelling style sees an inconsistency in groundedness and a consistency in conventions, and is often overblown in a disjointed, if not unfocused fashion, often made all the more distancing by dull atmospheric dry spells, thus, the final product is threatened, but saved by the solid soundtrack, breathtaking visual style, and intriguing subject matter - whose dramatic core is often done justice by directorial highlights and a compelling lead performance by Gabe Nevins - that make Gus Van Sant's "Paranoid Park" a generally engaging and often effective experimental drama on the struggles of a youth with dark secrets, despite its bloatings and shortcomings.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
½ May 11, 2013
Paranoid Park is a relatively uninteresting drama made with the care and skill of a great director, which ultimately makes it well-made from a technical standpoint, but not exactly easy to enjoy. It's about a teenage skateboarder named Alex who accidentally causes the death of a security guard and is forced to cope with his guilt and fear alone. The story is told in a similar way to Gus Van Sant's Elephant, and the movie's style is definitely it's strongest quality. Through the use of limited dialogue, dreamy skateboarding sequences, and non-chronological storytelling, Paranoid Park lets you into the mind of a teenager quietly suffering with nobody to turn to for help. This understated style is the main reason I watched the movie through to the end. I wasn't completely engaged in the story, namely because it moved at an incredibly slow pace (which I can generally handle) and the lead actor is unconvincing at times. Most of the actors are believable enough to hold their own and deliver their lines without a problem. The one major exception to this is Gabe Nevins, who plays Alex and gives an uneven performance. He almost always sounds like he's reading from a script, which can get very distracting at times and made his character hard to identify with. I just wasn't interested in most of Paranoid Park, which is unfortunate because I really like Gus Van Sant and I liked certain aspects of this movie a lot as well. Paranoid Park has gorgeous cinematography, a story ripe with emotion and potential, and themes of teenage angst that run deep, yet somehow it doesn't end up coming together to form an engaging or memorable movie.
Super Reviewer
February 14, 2012
Gus Van Sant likes to come up with these little dramas that seem brilliant in concept but come up short in execution. I admire the fact that he is willing to experiment a little but they don't always pan out.
Brandon S.
Super Reviewer
January 15, 2012
At first glance Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park may seem like a somewhat unconventional take on the classic murder mystery. Perhaps a teenage noir reminiscent of Rian Johnson's Brick. What is then so surprising is how disinterested Van Sant is in with any genre conventions. Rather than unravel a mystery he examines a young soul.

Based upon Blake Nelson's novel of the same name, it follows skater boy Alex as he finds himself among a group of young boarders suspected of murder. Despite it's subject matter, it isn't so concerned with the whodunit as why and how. The pieces to the puzzle are layed out in the earliest scenes of the film, but it's only till later that we realize what he have. The film circles around in a non-linear fashion slowly putting the pieces in their proper place.

Because the answers are given so early in the film, this gives us time to truthfully examine the life of a teenage boy. The film is much more concerned with the relationship with his girlfriend, with his parents and how he deals with a broken home. Taken with it's mish-mash of visual and musical styles, Van Sant creates a beautiful and unnerving coming of age story. It just so happens that it also includes death by skateboard.

Super Reviewer
½ November 12, 2011
Like Gus Van Sant's earlier artistic effort Elephant, Paranoid Park also stars a long-haired high-schooler that views the world a little bit differently than the Average Joe. Unlike his skateboarder companions, he has emotional depth and gives thought to things most kids his age wouldn't. But none of that detracts from the inventiveness that is Paranoid Park; it only adds.

Granted, if you were to take all of the unnecessary scenes out, you'd be left with a good 45 minutes of actual movie. Most of what you see in Paranoid Park are extended shots of people walking and old stock footage of skateboarders. It does a lot of the same things that Elephant does. Now, a lot of people hate this about Van Sant (I know a guy who claims that Gerry is the worst movie ever created). But to tell you the truth, I don't. That's not saying that I enjoy it and absolutely love it; I just don't mind it. If you asked me what I think, I'd just say that Van Sant likes the world we live in. He likes paying close attention to detail. It fascinates him. Problem is that it doesn't exactly fascinate everybody else.

But it fascinates me, sort of. When the camera tracks young Alex from behind for a good deal of time as he walks forth, it gives me time to soak the entire image in. It's not a cut every second. I actually get to think about what I'm seeing. And because of this, the movie feels thirty minutes longer than it is, and that kills some people.

Now, the story isn't really anything special. Alex, a teenager, spends the entire film feeling guilty over accidentally killing a security guard. That's pretty much it. Most of everything else involves him living his life. I didn't have a problem with any of that. The ending was obscure and abrupt, and all questions went unanswered, but, you know, it's fine.

So, am I recommending Paranoid Park? On a strong note, no. But if you liked Elephant, chances are you'll this film. It's nothing special, but far from ordinary.
Super Reviewer
December 4, 2011
Paranoid park is a decent independent film. It was boring but beautifully coordinated. I really like how it didn't go from start to end or else it would've been a complete wreck. It had good acting for an indie film but the plot was not anything new or unique. I wouldn't make time to watch it but if youre in the mood for an indie drama then go for it
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