Savagely satirizing red state evangelical culture while pretty much not substituting anything else – unless you count Vegas as the proposed cure in question – screenwriter Diablo Cody’s directing debut Paradise, unlike her breakout talkaholic treasure, Juno, narratively falters in its enthusiasm over substance mode of moviemaking. In other words, sorry Paradise, you’re no Juno.
Julianne Hough is Lamb Mannerheim in Paradise, a thoroughly disfigured young Montana woman whose body, save for her face, is left permanently scarred following a near fatal plane crash. Feeling both oppressed by her strict religious surroundings and struck by the notion of looming mortality after her close brush with death, Lamb decides there is no God, life is really short, and the only decision that makes any sense, is to head straight to Vegas with her hefty insurance settlement. And indulge all at once, in as many sinfully guilty pleasures as possible.
Which is where Paradise loses substantial steam, trading in potential plot point contemplations and revelations, for a cheesy if not monotonous and exhausting audience guided tour through the tackier realms of Sin City. And wasting heaps of talent that turns up along the way, on senseless small talk in search of actual ideas. Including Russell Brand, Octavia Spencer and Holly Hunter.
A few choice Cody style gems do surface, but much too few and far between. Including Spencer’s insightful take on the stereotypical and faceless “magical Negroes” who always seem to show up in movies to prop up damaged white people. And Holly Hunter as Lamb’s mom, scolding her for glittery attire that is undeniably Lucifer dust.
Paradise: A road movie taking flight from the constraints of religious fundamentalism. And lacking any sense of an alternative, essentially all dressed up in decadent duds but with basically nowhere to go.
To see the trailerof Paradise: