What Troubles the Teen
Director Gus Van Sant really gets disaffected teenagers. In Paranoid Park, he follows Alex (Gabe Nevins), a quiet skateboarder who is quite tentative by nature. For reasons not known immediately to us, we find him writing an essay about his life -- his friend, their hobby, his pushy girlfriend, his separated parents, and, eventually, his possible connection to the horrific killing of a security guard at the train tracks.
Being a teenager is already a personal, gawky, and often humiliating struggle, one amplified tenfold here by Alex's involvement in a terrible event. Within this space, Van Sant slowly and surely paints a recognizable and intensified portrait of quiet teen isolation, surrounded by classmates and acquaintances, yet feeling alone and without recourse. Van Sant has touched upon this weighty existence before with Elephant, which contrasted the concerns of teens against the gravity of a larger tragedy. In that movie, the tragic event lent perspective to the lives of various teens; in Paranoid Park, its own tragic event serves to amplify the personal experience of one particular kid.
Through Alex's eyes, the house and the city he lives in look more mundane, the people around him seem more self-absorbed, the possibilities of the day feel more limited; and yet none of this is shouted out loud. It's all communicated in quiet moments, casual conversations, and slow-motion daydreams. In Paranoid Park, not much actually happens and yet one teenager's mind is filled with far more than enough to ponder for a long time.
(Released by IFC Films and rated "R" for some disturbing images, language and sexual content.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.