Diablo Cody‘s directorial debut Paradise is probably not what anyone would expect from the Oscar-winning writer, as it’s a much gentler film that keeps her acerbic wit and social commentary in the margins. Perhaps that’s why the film debuted on VOD before hitting theaters this weekend. All things told, it’s a small and gentle movie that proves to be charming but slight.
- Director/Screenwriter: Diablo Cody
- Cast: Julianne Hough, Octavia Spencer, Russell Brand, Nick Offerman, Holly Hunter
- Cinematography by: Tim Suhrstedt
- Original Music by: Rachel Portman
Lamb (Hough) survives a plane crash that leaves her disfigured, and doubting the existence of god, which upsets the small-town community where she comes from. To find herself she plots a weekend in Vegas to experience sin. There she meets the bartender William (Brand) and lounge singer Loray (Spencer), who become her guides as she comes up with a list of things she wants to do that are “bad.” But as someone taking her first steps outside of a small town community and small town thinking, they’re mostly little bad things (like looking at a pornographic magazine).
- Charming: For her debut, Cody has decided to make a small movie with small stakes, and it seems meant for fifteen year old girls (or perhaps younger), but it works within its own limitations. The cast is pleasing, the jokes are mild but funny, and because there’s a quest to find sin the movie moves along fairly well.
- Hang-out Films: This is one where you get to sink into characters and spend time with them acting social, and it works on that level. Though some characters are thinner than others, and you could accuse William of being a Manic Pixie Dream Guy, that works because there’s a level where he just wants to sleep with a girl and will follow her around. That’s a much more believable behavior for guys than women, so it works. This is a relaxed film, but the people in it are likeable, so that’s okay.
- Point: Without hammering, Cody’s expressing that there’s a world out there, and it’s not as bad as it looks. Perhaps this is her most personal film, or perhaps she just liked the formula of it, but it seems to be geared to young women who might feel trapped in a small town life.
- Wasting Nick Offerman: There’s not much for the actor to do, as his most notable characteristic is having a bald head. When you have that sort of talent and don’t use it, that’s not a good thing. The same could be said for Holly Hunter, as both are left with bookending scenes.
Paradise is a not-bad film that is very ephemeral, which may explain why the film didn’t get a big Oscar push like most of the rest of her films. Cody’s strengths lie more with writing than any great visual gifts, but this is her first film as a director, and hopefully not her last.
Paradise is on VOD now, and will be in theaters October 18.