TAD 2019: Our Review of ‘Paradise Hills’

TAD 2019: Our Review of ‘Paradise Hills’

If nothing else, Alice Waddington’s feature debut Paradise Hills (a future Big Hot Mess candidate if there ever was one) shoots for the moon. I cannot in good conscience suggest that it reaches those ambitions. I can, however, recognize that there is enough this does succeed at to offer a compromise of sorts. To paraphrase every far too cheery High School motivational poster, this film shoots for the moon and lands amongst the rose bushes.

When Uma (Emma Roberts) refuses to marry a man who has overtaken control of her family’s livelihood, she is sent to an island “Paradise” to be reformed by the matriarchal Duchess (Milla Jovovich). Once there, she meets Amarna (Eliza González), Chloe (Danielle Macdonald), and Yu (Akwafina), and begins to discover that this “Paradise,” might be anything but.

The very first frames of Paradise Hills are an artfully designed Lola Montes reference, in which Emma Roberts performs for the exalted guests at her wedding. From there the film flashes back two months in time to piece together what has occurred. From here Waddington fires innumerable thematic threads at her audience, from a queer love story to some interesting up/down class considerations, and a rose motif that only gets more engaging as it festers in your mind. There are countless interesting ideas at play, but they all unfortunately fall by the wayside as the film loses itself in the momentum of its own narrative.

But Paradise Hills is perpetually a delight to just simply watch. The candy coloured set design and lighting ensures that even if the film fails to deliver on its lofty promises, you’ll at least enjoy its visuals. It’s the fascinating conundrum of this film. You’ll love the aesthetic, but it never quite pokes you hard enough to feel squeamish about your enjoyment.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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