Gus Van Sant’s Skateboard-Gazing Snore

This film is leaving my hometown theater after its 2 evening shows tonight after playing for only one week. It was poorly attended but well reviewed – though not by me:

PARANOID PARK (Dir. Gus Van Sant, 2008)

I’m in the minority on this one – it has a 76% rating on the Rottentomatometer with much fawning from major critics who use words like “dreamy”, “impressionistic”, and “haunting” I have to declare that PARANOID PARK bored me to tears. Concerning a teenager skateboarder who may have been involved with the murder or accidental killing of a security guard this slow dreary movie uses a fractured narrative and documentary-style footage (some shots have people with bars across their eyes suggesting they aren’t actors but members of the public caught on film) to disguise a weak premise and severe lack of substance. Gabe Nevins plays the kid in question who sulkingly plods through the paces trying to put into perspective what happened one fateful night on a train track near Paranoid Park (actually the nickname of O’Bryant Square) – a Portland, Oregon hang-out of other aimless skateboarders. He writes down the event as a letter to somebody which provides voice-over narration but it is too vague, like the film itself, to have much impact. He moppingly deals with the police who are investigating the crime and a girlfriend (Taylor Momsen) who is nagging him to have sex with her. It’s told out of order with some scenes repeating from different angles – a method Van Sant used in LAST DAYS and just like in that lame film it does little to illuminate anything it just adds to the boring repetition.

PARANOID PARK is based on the young adult novel of the same name which its author described as a retelling of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” with a teenager’s point of view. That’s an interesting notion certainly more interesting than anything I saw on the screen here. Not sure how I’m supposed to get such a concept when suffering through long shots with nothing happening. There is a scene in which Nevins takes a shower shortly after the incident and it is shown as an unbroken take. We see Nevin’s long scraggily hair gradually get wet and slowly the camera pans down as the water flows through the strands streaming down below his head. I just yawned writing about how tedious and meaningless the scene is and how it is not alone in this dreadful film. There’s also a unneccesary shower scene in ELEPHANT (another Van Sant film I’m not a fan of) but it at least had more going on in it. Filled with a mostly emo score and way too much skateboard-gazing nothingness, though honestly some of the skating scenes are well shot and at least give the movie motion at times, PARANOID PARK is dark, dull, and even at its short length (85 min.) qualifies as a genuine waste of time. Many though, will tell you different but I’m going with my gut here.

Tomorrow 2 new movies open at the Varsity (the theater I work at part-time) – THE COUNTERFEITERS and SMART PEOPLE. Stay tuned to Film Babble Blog for reviews.

More later…

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