Paradise (Diablo Cody, 2013)

paradise

Transitioning from screenwriter to director/screenwriter, Diablo Cody debuts with the comedy drama Paradise starring Julianne Hough, Russel Brand, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman and Holly Hunter.

Hough stars as Lamb, a young woman living in a religious community with her family who after being in a plane crash loses her faith and goes to Las Vegas to experience life. There she meets a bartender played by Russel Brand and a dancer portrayed by Octavia Spencer. The title refers to a part of Las Vegas known as Paradise.

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The deal with this film is that it doesn’t take advantage of its premise. It’s a good idea but it simply isn’t funny, or original in any way. It’s less than mediocre and badly written, especially for an Oscar-winning screenwriter like Cody. I enjoyed her previous work, Juno and Young Adult quite a lot. I appreciated her sense of humor and how she created her characters, but here she fails in every way. She names her main character Lamb (really?), writes some very bad dialogue, the jokes didn’t even make me smile and gives such a dull and ordinary ending you’ll see only on the worst kind of TV movie.
The actors try to make this film worth watching. Julianne Hough gives a nice performance. I haven’t seen her in other films yet, haven’t seen Rock of Ages or Safe Haven, but here she does a fine job with this character, nothing really spectacular but she wasn’t bad.
The presence of Russel Brand made me question watching this film to begin with. I simply don’t like him, don’t have anything against the guy personally, I don’t hate people for no reason, just that his characters in general are annoying. His part was badly written, can’t blame him for that, but he wasn’t good either. I simply don’t enjoy seeing him in anything at all.

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However, Octavia Spencer is a pleasant presence, it’s just that Cody didn’t give her character any color or background at all. Just like on Russel Brand’s character. She is just a sassy black woman, secretly unhappy, who cracks some supposedly funny lines that make her pathetic. She gives us some story about her character not being in touch with her family but doesn’t explain why. It tries to present the idea of lost, unhappy people who refuge in Vegas, but it fails miserably.
And, lastly, Nick Offerman and Holly Hunter appear as Lamb’s parents, two small roles with limited screen time. They were alright, it’s just that they don’t have a lot of scenes for me to praise or  complain about.
The whole film is rushed and very aware of itself. I could say that only the performances from Hough and Spencer which are just decent, did-their-job kind of performances, but the film itself is bad. Just bad.
Lazy would be the best word to describe Diablo Cody’s directorial debut. This could have been a nice story but Cody chose to write it in the most insipid, unfunny and flavorless way.

D+

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