Paradise Hills Image

Paradise Hills

By Alex Saveliev | October 25, 2019

Unconvinced, Uma, along with her newfound friends – the peculiarly-relaxed Chloe (Danielle Macdonald), the green-haired, headphone-wearing Yu (Awkwafina) and famous pop singer Amarna (Eiza Gonzalez) – hatch an escape plan…but not before receiving extreme makeovers. As the Duchess explains, it’s “mirror therapy, about remembering what makes you…you.” The appearance of Uma’s “true love,” Markus (Jeremy Levine) throws a wrench into things, with Amanda growing bitter. “You don’t need a man to escape,” she states. “I don’t think he deserves you.” Amanda’s mind changes, however, when the island’s dark secrets surface. Imagine if Poison Ivy wandered through that scene in Annihilation, and you’ll have a semblance of an idea of this film’s bonkers finale.

Waddington isn’t ashamed to wear her allusions to/inspirations by The Handmaid’s Tale openly on her multihued sleeves. Yet, unlike the show (wildly different from Margaret Atwood’s brilliant source novel), the film never bludgeons its relevant motifs into our heads, nor does it resort to gratuitous sanctimony. Instead, it provides a cheeky, otherworldly glimpse at the current reality: the suppression of a woman’s identity; women being boxed into what any given society expects from them, be it arranged marriage, or weight loss, or hair color.

“…the film’s make-up, along with the production/set design, cinematography, and costumes, are absolutely spectacular.”

Speaking of, the film’s make-up, along with the production/set design, cinematography, and costumes are absolutely spectacular. Lavish dresses and masks; rose rooms and kaleidoscopic gardens; neon-lit beds and pastel skies; bamboo gardens and withering roses – Waddington displays a truly artistic eye, an ability to create an entire world, both threatening and welcoming, governed by its own rules. Paradise Hills is punctuated by off-kilter musical numbers and memorably original touches, such as Uma being elevated on a carousel horse to be subjected, Clockwork Orange-style, to a mind-control of sorts.

“Some say rose bushes have thorns,” The Duchess says, upon her first encounter with Uma. “I rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.” Jovovich has been in her share of B-flicks and isn’t afraid to ham it up as the island’s overseer, pronouncing aforementioned lines with delectable relish. Emma Thompson is a charming lead, who’s easy to root for. When asked how she’s adjusting to the rehabilitation center, Uma snaps: “Great. I’ve always wanted to go to a fascist boarding school, so this is a dream come true.” The fact that neither she nor the rest of the impressive cast, dig deep enough into their characters to truly resonate is by no fault of their own. This film is about style over substance – although the substance isn’t insubstantial.

Paradise Hills has pacing issues, and a made-for-TV feel it can’t quite escape. A firmer grasp of tone would’ve benefited the narrative. Yet its creators’  boundless imagination carries it through the rougher patches. There hasn’t been anything quite like it in 2019…which, at least to me, as a critic, represents paradise.

Paradise Hills (2019)

Directed: Alice Waddington

Written: Brian DeLeeuw, Nacho Vigalondo, Alice Waddington

Starring: Emma Roberts, Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina, Eiza Gonzalez, Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Irvine, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Paradise Hills Image

"…embrace its lunacy, and you’ll have a hell of a time."

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  1. Feryal says:

    I swear there was another movie just like this but years before I’m talking like 10/15 years before. From the moment I’m the film started to the point she woke up somewhere else I knew this film from when I was a child and watched it. I get this was made in 2019 however there is a film exactly the same but this is just more modern. Just can’t remember the name of the other movie

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