After surviving a plane crash a young conservative woman suffers a crisis of faith.
One of the perks I earn as movie reviewer, is the chance to view a lot of different genres and stories. Some are good and some are bad. Sometimes, I will get to see something that is beyond terrible, something so bad that I would never wish it on my worst enemy but every now and again, a small film comes along that completely takes you off guard and restores your faith in humanity. That movie, is “Paradise.” As I sat down to watch it, I knew absolutely nothing about the film, I didn’t even read the synopsis on the back of the cover and for the next 86 minutes, I found myself laughing and then crying and then laughing some more.
After Lamb (Julianne Hough), a conservative young woman, survives a plane crash with two-thirds of her body terribly burned, she suffers a crisis of faith and decides to leave her authoritative and devoutly religious parents and go to Las Vegas to act like a ‘regular American.’ Having spent her whole life doing what her parents and congregation forced upon her, she takes the insurance payout from the accident and elects to go to Sin City to enjoy life and let loose, to do all the things she was told were morally wrong; dancing, listening to pop music, drinking and generally enjoying herself.
When she arrives, she immediately feels like a fish out of water so to ease her pain, she decides to seize the moment and visit the hotel bar where she meets the suave and very English resident bartender, William (Russell Brand) who then introduces her to his best friend and resident lounge singer, Loray (Octavia Spencer). They take Lamb under their protective wings and all three of them spend the night together, frequenting different bars and casinos, and, inevitably, exploring each other’s lives along with a good dose of self-discovery.
Director Diablo Cody, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for 2007’s “Juno”, shows that she is a very competent director and weaves a multi-layered tale about characters that are very believable and very flawed but it’s because of their imperfections, that we truly believe in them. I couldn’t take my eyes off Julianne Hough, who plays the aforementioned Lamb. She strikes the right balance of worldly innocence along with a fiery tenacity to help everyone she meets.
Octavia Spencer gives another refined yet understated performance but for me, one of the most remarkable achievements in the film, was Russell Brand. I’ve never really cared for Mr. Brand and his brash and impetuous characteristics, in movies or in real-life but in “Paradise”, he was so likable and so damn convincing, he made me want to go back and watch the movies he made that I chose not to watch, simply because he was in them.
The always-wonderful Holly Hunter and Nick Offerman play Lamb’s parents but sadly, they are underutilized and reduced to glorified cameos, which is a shame, as these two exceptional actors work so well off each other in the small scenes they do share. Ultimately, Diablo Cody has made an absolutely beautiful movie about beautiful people which shines on every level and if this is what her first film as a director has to offer, then I can’t wait to see what’s next. Highly Recommended.
In stores November 12th