Paranoid Park

Critics Consensus

Director Gus Van Sant once again superbly captures the ins and outs of teenage life in Paranoid Park, a quietly devastating portrait of a young man living with guilt and anxiety.



Total Count: 123


Audience Score

User Ratings: 21,850
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Movie Info

An unsolved murder at Portland's infamous Paranoid Park brings detectives to a local high school, propelling a young skater into a moral odyssey where he must not only deal with the pain and disconnect of adolescence but the consequences of his own actions.

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Critic Reviews for Paranoid Park

All Critics (123) | Top Critics (37)

  • [An] intriguing, mind-altering skateboard elegy.

    Jul 16, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Paranoid Park, Gus Van Sant's mesmerizing new movie, melds the dreamy languor of his last few films with a page-turner of a plot.

    Mar 28, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • Gus Van Sant's capper to a trilogy of experiments in elliptical narrative and lyrical structure is a masterful triumph of art, craft and empathy for the complicatedness of being a real teenager.

    Mar 21, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ted Fry

    Seattle Times
    Top Critic
  • Regarding Paranoid Park as an elongated short rather than a feature helps a bit, because it's a miniature in spirit -- a small-format portrait of psychic malaise that just happens to last 84 minutes.

    Mar 21, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Paranoid Park becomes a portrait of the skate punk as repressed personality. The movie doesn't really go anywhere as a story, it simply unfolds.

    Mar 21, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Intriguing and obliquely involving.

    Mar 21, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Paranoid Park

  • 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
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • 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.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • Apr 03, 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.
    c0up   Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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.
    John B Super Reviewer

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