DIRECTED BY: GUS VAN SANT
CAST: GABE NEVINS, TAYLOR MOMSEN, JAKE MILLER, RICHARD LU, LAUREN
Believe me, the numb in my title is not a word of abuse that deteriorates the calibre of
Paranoid park starts interestingly with its main character Alex writing down the name of the movie in his ruled-notebook as something that appears to be a diary entry, which tells you quite clearly that the movie in itself is a revelation that comes through Alex’s mouth or rather, from the tip of his pencil. The story unfolds in a manner that makes it more enthralling than you expect it to be, with some beautiful jugglery of sequences and each sequence starts from a place that Alex (Gabe Nevins) chooses to enter in his diary. And the main screenplay is punctuated by sequences showing Alex’s dream of punks and skateboarders, that photographer Christopher Doyle decided to shoot with the help of a handy-cam so that more than dreams these sequences looks like home-made videos posted on broadcasting sites on the net as a show off. These videos come in all kinds, ranging from serious exhibitionism of skate-board skills, and even bloopers and gags involving skating mishaps.
Well it is not very intelligent to enquire about the plot in a Gus Van Sant movie, especially after you have sat through his pointlessly exuberant ‘Gerry’ and though that is not the case for ‘Paranoid Park’, it still has one of the simplest plots maybe, written in recent times. Alex is an introverted boy whose introverted-ness is justified by him being a son of soon-to-be-divorced parents and being an elder brother to a thirteen year old boy he cannot connect with. He has a girlfriend named Jennifer (Taylor Momsen) whom he is least interested in just because she wants him to deflower her, and a friend named Jared (Jake Miller) in whose house he often sleeps over and because of whom he gets introduced to a ‘cursed’ skateboard park (Burnside Park) that is also called Paranoid Park, and which in turn is filled by all punks and all other members of the skate-board community. The park and one punk in it get him involved in a freak accident-murder and it is his paranoia at that is what forms the rest of the story that also has a sweet little part involving a girl called Macy (Lauren McKinney) and how she helps him get over his trauma.
Not that I don’t want to tell more or because telling more would expose the plot and even if it does, it really doesn’t matter because Paranoid Park is one movie that holds a lot in its sequence of events and the overall emotions (In this case the paranoia) that runs throughout the movie. Alex is the person who narrates the movie and not Gus Van Sant because Alex is the teenager among the twosome, and all that we can say is that Gus Van Sant has done a fabulous job of connecting with the teen viewer as he manages to convincingly show his characters as teens. Gabe Nevins as Alex is good at his role and more so with his voice that is more adolescent than mature and that maybe would make him stand out as a successful teen actor among a haul of others. He doesn’t need to show his paranoia actually: The film’s screenplay does it all and so does Doyle’s visuals which means that Nevins just had to live as Alex, the teenager who does nothing at any crisis except to widen his eyes a bit because the overall setup plus his locks take care of that. And that does not mean he didn’t do a fabulous job (which he did!) and that does not mean that the character of Alex doesn’t have a lot of depth in it. A certain inspector named Richard Lu (Daniel Liu) comes as a special police officer to interrogate and to ‘connect’ with the local skateboard community of the High School where Alex goes. Alex gets his turn to be interrogated too, but as nobody actually has any proof except for an eyewitness who sees a skateboard being thrown into the lake, Alex could be the culprit only as much as all the other people who went to Paranoid Park that night which meant that he wasn’t really under pressure and fear of being arrested. And that ought to clearly tell that it is not the fear of getting arrested or the guilt of having done the crime that worries Alex, but the very thought of having done it because he has never done such a thing in his life. And this could be seen as a coming-of-age movie on one side because Alex tells to Macy in a café that, “There are more important things in life, like the war in Iraq and children Starving in Africa” and as she asks him cleverly as to whether he was really concerned about starvation of children he shakes his head and she smiles.
The very thing that is so very pleasing about Paranoid Park is that things get to explain themselves in bits and pieces: If you get a piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the second minute, you get the next piece in probably after an hour, which could be even after the last piece shows itself well and good. And that jigsaw puzzle of a screenplay is not meant for anything except that this is the order in which Alex writes his story down and the very order is a clear symbol of his paranoia, which is in turn, the paranoia that the movie gives to you. You get the clarity of mind (Though not entirely in visuals) only in the last scene where Alex throws his notes into a fire, and you find out then a reason both of why he writes and why he throws them into the fire, both in Macy’s words. “If you want to get something out of your mind, write them in a letter, which you can send, save or burn. Write all your worries in a letter, write them to me…” says she, and that conveys that a paranoid person can not only get over his paranoia but also find some new love that’s waiting for him in the world outside…