Paranoid Park

Posted March 13, 2008 in Film

Gus Van Sant has been fascinated by teenagers since he made stars out of Matt Dillon and River Phoenix. Lately, his kids are more withdrawn and less active. Seventeen-year-old Portland skater Alex (Gabe Nevins) slinks around seeming suffocated by boredom. Even his cheerleader girlfriend’s determination to lose her virginity to him is ho-hum—she’s too normal. What finally shakes him awake (and us) is a jaw-dropper of a scene: He accidentally slices a security guard (John Michael Burrowes) in half. The image of the doughy man’s torso clawing towards Alex with eyes pleading for help is so knockdown, gut-clenchingly compelling that Van Sant never bothers to fill out the movie with any more plot. Alex’s arc goes from ennui to shock to feigning ennui as the cops visit his school to lazily question alternakids who that night might have been at the Paranoid, the nearby skate park. This isn’t mallrat Crime and Punishment; it’s Accident and Inertia, structured by Alex’s attempt to capture his feelings in a journal. (He’s more verbose than introspective.) That the film holds the attention is credit in part to Nevin’s bland Edward Furlongian androgynous beauty and Van Sant’s ability to make a long shower scene feel as oppressive and draining as an exorcism. Long slo-mo sequences of shaggy-haired, slim-hipped skaters gliding around half-pipes are equally magnetic, but the effect wears thinner than Converse. (Amy Nicholson)



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