Monday, December 30, 2013

PARADISE: stream Diablo Cody's most mature (and, of course, least viewed) film so far....

With Juno, first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody had the likes of Ellen Page, Michael Cera, high-school pregnancy, naughty language and an ending that could whisk a religious fundamentalist straight to movie heaven. Her next film, Jennifer's Body, tackled the horror-comedy genre and, while critically rebuffed, still proved pretty good fun. Then it was back to star wattage with Charlize Theron in Young Adult. Now Ms Cody adds first-time director to her screenwriting credits and comes up with what is her most mature work to date, PARADISE, which consequently received barely a theatrical release a few weeks ago and is already available on Netflix Steaming. Ah, the vagaries of the movie marketplace!

Paradise follows in the footsteps of another recent film, Electrick Children, about an innocent girl, brought up in a fundamentalist religion, suddenly up against the wiles of the devil in the big city -- that city in both cases being Las Vegas. Electrick Children is by far the better movie -- more original and unusual in every way -- but that does not mean that Paradise doesn't pack a lot of enjoyment and charm, as well. The writer/director, shown at left, while tamping down her penchant for motor-mouth obscenity (which, I admit, can be very funny), still comes up with some smart dialog and trenchant observations now and again, while leading her leading lady (played a bit too confidently by the very pretty Julianne Houghshown below) through some interesting, growth-related coming-of-age paces.

Ms Hough is wonderfully abetted by her two co-stars, the ever-long-and-greasy-haired Russell Brand (here calmer and more accessible than usual) and the increasingly versatile and Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer, who gets to look younger and more adorable than we've heretofore witnessed, while proving just as adept at drawing laughs here as she is at jerking tears in the current Fruitvale Station.

For fans of Brand (below) and Spencer (above), this movie will be a must-see for their work alone, but it can certainly be recommended as passable entertainment to anyone remotely interested in religious growth, Las Vegas life and odd-but-kindly friendships.

Paradise, running just 86 minutes, can be streamed now via Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and is also available on DVD.

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