1 item from 1999
The sunny title is ironic, and in its hint of same-song predictability, more than a little pessimistic. That's fitting for this hard-eyed squint at the underside of flat middle America as gaped through the beads of a neo-Bonnie and Clyde-ish pair.
Although January may be the dog days of indie dumpings, this Trimark film bristles with bulls-eye potshots and sobering craziness. With a brilliant, hair-trigger lead performance by James Woods and an equally impressive, druggy turn by Melanie Griffith as the central crime couple, "Another Day in Paradise" is far more than just another day in the desultory pattern of January releases.
Director Larry Clark has served up a searing insight into a couple of dysfunctional, wired teens (Vincent Kartheiser, Natasha Gregson Wagner) who have smacked dead bottom and are one shot away from the morgue. Luckily for them, they get some shelter in the unlikely form of a pair of guardian angels -- in this case, a pair of peripatetic dope dealers who sideline into any scrap left along the dusty roadside.
Fittingly, "Day in Paradise" is a narrative rush as the foursome cascade into accelerating craziness and self-destruction. It's a countercultural, insightful scenario as Mel and Sid take the two "kids" under their wing and teach them the ropes of doper road life. In a very obvious way, what we have here is a family of sorts, at its most sunnily perverse a criminal, on-the-road vacation with Mom and Pop in the front seat (just like Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo in the "National Lampoon" movies) and the young 'uns fussing and fighting in the back. Overall, the screenplay (Christopher Landon, Stephen Chin) is well-tooled, both sparse and subversive, making its thematic points from a well-scoped distance.
Indeed, it's the dark underside to the nuclear family, a carload fractured by drugs and dislocated with no moral compass or guidelines. What propels this clan is Mel's intense drive, his junkie-style needs to assert himself, take charge and, most vaingloriously, to pass on his knowledge and tradition to the two impressionable, addled teens.
Indeed, it's Woods' combustible, slithery performance that blasts this minimalist morality tale into its deeper dimensions of human need and insecurity. It's a stunningly unrelenting performance of a character junked out by his own ego-induced injections. Watching Woods' performance, we almost feel that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in Mel's brain -- so finely wired is the portrayal.
Griffith is also achingly credible as the blowzy, drugged-up moll. Her casual, insouciant manner, needled nutso, is alluring and frightening. It's an understated, powerful portrayal. As the fractured kids, Kartheiser and Wagner are solid, full of empty urges and frightened by their out-of-control actions.
Under Clark's smoldering direction, the technical contributions are a high point, especially cinematographer Eric Edwards' glowing orange hues and flinty compositions, capturing both the highs and lows of this dead-end road show.
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
and Chinese Bookie Pictures present
a Larry Clark film
Producers: Stephen Chin, Larry Clark, James Woods
Director: Larry Clark
Screenwriters: Christopher Landon, Stephen Chin
Based on the book by: Eddie Little
Co-producer: Scott Shiffman
Director of photography: Eric Edwards
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Editor: Luis Colina
Costume designer: Kathryn Morrison
Music supervisors: Howard Paar, Robin Urdang
Casting director: John Papsidera
Sound mixer: Arthur Rochester
Mel: James Woods
Sid: Melanie Griffith
Bobbie: Vincent Kartheiser
Rosie: Natasha Gregson Wagner
Reverend: James Otis
Danny: Branden Williams
Clem: Brent Briscoe
Ty: Peter Sarsgaard
Richard Johnson: Paul Hipp
Bonnie Johnson: Kim Flowers
Running time -- 101 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1999
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