What You Need To Know:
PARANOID PARK is a laidback look at teenage alienation and ennui. Some of the performances display some talent, including newcomer Gabe Nevins as Alex, while others are somewhat weak. No strong moral points are made about the “throwaway kids” in the movie’s story. Also, PARANOID PARK is rated R for some strong foul language, sexual references and brief disturbing images when the guard dies.
(PaPa, B, LL, VVV, SS, N, MM) Noncommittal strong pagan worldview about teenage alienation and ennui in a story about a teenage skateboarder who may be implicated in the accidental death of a security guard, with some themes dealing with the guilt the boy feels; 12 obscenities (including at least five “f” words) and seven light profanities, plus boy vomits; a couple brief very strong images of effects of accident after man gets hit by train but not a lot of blood or gore is shown and guard tries to hit boy with billy club and boy automatically strikes the guard with his skateboard; partially depicted and implied fornication between two teenagers in one scene and several verbal references to sex; upper male nudity in two scenes and girl in panties and bra in one scene; no alcohol; no smoking; and, lying, teen hides truth about fatal accident from police and society and parents, illegal hopping on a freight train as it’s moving.
PARANOID PARK is a small slice-of-life drama about a teenage skateboarder who gets into some serious trouble.
Adapted from a novel by Blake Nelson, the movie opens with young Alex writing in a journal in his divorced father’s house and on the beach in Portland, Oregon. The movie jumps back and forth in time to show what exactly prompted Alex to start writing the journal.
Viewers soon learn the police have discovered the severed body of a security guard at the local train yard, where the man apparently was run over by a train. The death is suspicious because the man has a head wound that could have been from a skateboard. The police question all of the skateboarders in Alex’s school, including him, but Alex seems uninvolved.
Flashbacks to Alex’s whereabouts that night, however, show that, instead of being with his high school buddy, Alex drove to Paranoid Park, a skating ramp park in a shady part of town built by skateboarders themselves. Alex feels he’s not good enough to skateboard with the other people there, but he likes to watch the action. At the park, Alex makes friends with a teenage couple and their older friend, who takes Alex for a ride on one of the freight trains. There, the security sees them, runs over and starts to hit Alex with his club. Alex automatically lashes out with his skateboard, which hits the guard. The guard stumbles back into an oncoming train. Alex watches in shock as the man dies, then runs away.
A girl Alex knows sees that he’s troubled about something and encourages him to write the journal. The question becomes, therefore, will Alex confess to his involvement with the guard’s death or will writing the journal assuage the guilt he feels?
PARANOID PARK is a laidback look at teenage alienation and ennui. Some of the performances display some talent, including newcomer Gabe Nevins as Alex, Dan Liu as the detective who questions Alex and the other teens, Lauren McKinney as Alex’s female friend Macy, and Jay “Smay” Williamson as Alex’s scary-looking father. The other performances are rather weak, however.
Overall, PARANOID PARK is sometimes involving, but ultimately unsuccessful. No strong moral points are made about the “throwaway kids” in its story. Thus, the movie pulls away from making any statement one way or another about the social and psychological, much less the moral and spiritual, problems affecting its main character. Furthermore, the main character is somewhat androgynous and does not really care about the opposite sex, which may reflect the director Gus Van Sant’s interest in homosexual themes in some of his previous movies. The movie also is rated R for some strong foul language, sexual references and brief disturbing images when the guard dies.