Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Young Adult" and "Juno".
After winning an Oscar for her first screenplay with "Juno", Diablo Cody has been a name to watch out for those who are in search for screenwriters telling stories about strong but flawed female characters. However, if "Jennifer's Body" and "Young Adult" were met with middling successes because of poor direction, taking charge of her own script in her directorial debut for "Paradise" is a step in the wrong direction.
Lamb Mannerheim (Julianne Hough) comes from a conservative (also read as Republican) Christian community in Montana that has their faith deeply rooted against the devil's lies of science. When Lamb somehow manages to survive an air crash piloted by her family-approved fiance, she shocks her church with her truthful testimony that she no longer believes that there is a benevolent God that would allow her body to be scarred by the severe burns of jet fuel. In defiance to the power of her parents' prayers, Lamb books a one-way ticket to the land of sin called Las Vegas, where she intends to fully make up for the indulgences of sin that she had missed out from all these years.
It is hard to tell whether Cody's clunky direction undermines her own script or simply uncovers a faithless script that has given up on Cody's witty standards, or a case that both are the cause for her hitting new lows, not as a director but also a writer. There is a compounding pointlessness in seeing Lamb's all-out romp to be bad because she is either just as sheltered as where she came from by Octavia Spencer's magical negro (you'll know what that is when she explains it to you) or we have never known that Las Vegas is the safest place on Earth only inhabited by childish drunks and prostitutes without an ounce of opportunism.
Even with Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer giving out their best to be the vehicles of supposed enlightenment, it is Hough's not-Jewish perfect Barbie character that doesn't hold enough bite for audiences to be latched onto her misery or safe acts of self-destruction. While Cody's trademark pop cultural referential barbs are delivered often by the characters, they are spouted by characters that never go deeper than just people having a good (or bad) time wandering around town; a level of characterisation that belongs to a boring TV special.
As the confused tourists who never knew they were never actually in Las Vegas, "Paradise" is just as self-deluded that it was going to deliver any poignant message about finding one's calling in life and you had spent all the time being taken on an aimless trip. Cinema Online, 10 December 2013