While most of the world tries to endure teenagers – or, in Hollywood’s case, exploit them – writer-director Gus Van Sant is one of the few filmmakers who truly empathizes with them. He turns their awkward fumbling into visual poetry.
Like Elephant, Paranoid Park is another intersection of adolescence and murder. This time it involves a soft-spoken teen named Alex (Gabe Nevins, another of Van Sant’s mesmerizing acting neophytes) and an evening at an underground skateboarding park that goes awry.
Though the movie is based on a novel by Blake Nelson, Van Sant eschews traditional narrative in favor of a blissful, meditative state – dreamy skateboarding sequences featuring an avante garde soundtrack are interspersed with more conventional moments of dialogue. As a result, the plot is less clear than Alex’s interior life, in which the stresses of peer pressure, sexuality and divorcing parents all subtly, almost imperceptibly lead to a tragic event. Van Sant’s teens, once again, are angels slowly sullied by a demonic world.