Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
France/USA, 2007. MK2 Productions, Meno Films, Centre National de la Cinématographie. Screenplay by Gus Van Sant, based on the novel by Blake Nelson. Cinematography by Christopher Doyle, Rain Li. Produced by David Allen Cress, Neil Kopp. Music by Rachel Fox. Production Design by John Pearson-Denning. Costume Design by Chapin Simpson. Film Editing by Gus Van Sant. Boston Film Critics Awards 2008. Cannes Film Festival 2007. Independent Spirit Awards 2007. National Society of Film Critics Awards 2008. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Gus Van Sant continues to explore the fascinating (to him) world of shirtless skinny teenagers with this miniature foray into the psyche of a high school student. Young Gabe Nevins spends his free time away from high school and girlfriend Taylor Momsen (most famous as Ron Howard’s Cindy Lou Who) on a skateboard with his friends in Portland’s Paranoid Park. He is dogged by the trauma of memories, and gradually we discover that it is specifically the events of a few nights previous when he and his friend were involved in a deadly skirmish. When a police officer comes to his high school asking questions about the death of a security guard and hopes there are kids with answers for him, our hero feels the pressures of his life and relationships even more. Christopher Doyle’s beautiful photography gives a lot of depth to what is otherwise a shallow version of Elephant, one that will only work for Van Sant’s most ardent fans. It’s too short to be boring but too slim to be satisfying, and the secret and tense world of barely pubescent teenagers that seems to transfix the auteur doesn’t necessarily translate as relevant to his entire audience.