A teenage skateboarder's life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.A teenage skateboarder's life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.A teenage skateboarder's life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.
The teen is Alex (first timer Gabe Nevins), who was mostly responsible for the (very) grisly death of a security guard while he and a not-quite acquaintance from Paranoid Park's skating scene were riding carelessly along a slow-moving train. He shut it out of his mind, or tried to, until a police officer examining the case brought in photos of the deceased in a Q & A with all of the skaters at high school. This, pretty much, is the bedrock of the story, but aside from this it's the 'something' that is the story. The rest of the film shows this kid in a state of peril, but not of the sort that makes us think this is an immediate existential crisis. He feigns interest in a girlfriend (ditzy Jennifer played by Taylor Momsen), hangs out with his skater friends like Jared (also first-timer Jake Miller), and writes in a journal with a narration that's a mix of detached Travis Bickle and, well, awkward teen.
What interested me was a mood I found Van Sant, intentionally or otherwise, was working with. I kept thinking back to a work like Camus's the Stranger, which had its 'hero' Mersault as a figure who wasn't exactly passionate and just a few heart beats above dead fish. There's something in this kids eyes, in his lack of reaction and in those long moments right after the train track scene as he is under the shower faucet in slow-motion. Actually, there's a lot of slow-motion, sometimes of walking, or ruminating, and as it builds with the narration and the mix of stark and experimental cinematography from the great Christopher Doyle (great at, you know, these kinds of art-house films), as part of Van Sant's method of character study.
Alex's inability to connect, with friends, parents, authority figures, even his own impulse to release his inner thoughts, however brief and to the point ("I'm not much of a creative writer," Alex admits), is what is meant to absorb the viewer into Paranoid Park. For Van Sant, no matter what the excesses of the light touches of music (mostly from Nino Rota and Elliot Smith), or the slow-motion skateboarding (which I could go either way on as a casual admirer of the sport), or the bits that seem to have not much to do with anything aside from following a character in the midst of some thought (i.e. Alex on an escalator), it works as a feat of art for expressing its character, in the relatively short running time, like no other filmmaker would. It's somewhat challenging, but one that's worth taking for glimpses into a state of mind akin to the sobering existential and, more startling, the lack-of-coming-of-age to the character. 8.5/10
- Mar 20, 2008