Paradise Hills

SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS (2019)

 

Director: Alice Waddington

 

Starring: Emma Roberts, Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina, Eiza González, Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Irvine, Arnaud Valois

This sound like an MTV reality TV show…

 

From the mind of newcomer Alice Waddington, Paradise Hills is a fantasy-mystery-thriller that’s both beautiful to look at and absorbing to watch (for the most part). Boasting an impressive female ensemble, the movie sets itself on a remote yet idyllic island where young women are sent by their families for reconditioning – the idea being they leave the island as the perfect versions of themselves. Beneath the glamour and sweetness lies something far more sinister, however.

The all-female cast bristle with their own distinct styles, led by Emma Roberts as Uma who, again, is excellent in her role. Supporting her are Danielle Macdonald’s confident Chloe, Awkwafina’s introverted Yu, Eiza Gonzalez’s boisterous Amarna, and Milla Jovovich’s perfectly prickly Duchess – the matriarch of the dreamlike facility. It’s a nicely varied cast that all deliver solid performances together. As for the story itself, there are twists and turns to keep you invested (the movie begins with a flash-forward before a flashback) and it’s firmly rooted in fantasy sci-fi territory. It doesn’t always work, the further into Paradise Hills we get, the more bonkers it becomes and loses some of its steam and quality but it never derails itself. As for what it’s all about? Femininity and the shackles society puts upon it, the repressive glares thrown its way. The females are all treated as children, mollycoddled and dressed in virginal white, flowy uniforms. Mealtimes are observed together with dainty, antique crockery topped off with drugged milk and everything feels like a trippy spa day. At various moments during the movie, Jovovich’s Duchess literally spends her time pulling thorns from roses to really hammer home the subtext/message. Visually, there’s a slightly off-the-wall look to the movie, the colours pop from the screen and the sublime facility is decked out lavishly – it’s really a treat to look at. It’s not fully style over substance, but things certainly lean more towards the style.

 

Paradise Hills is on one of those movies that will probably gain a cult following and succeed in that vicinity, though it deserves better than that for a variety of good reasons – the strong ensemble cast, the visual style, and the messages amongst others – and whilst it never blew me away fully, there was plenty to admire and enjoy about this.

September 9th 2019

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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