Review of Paradise Hills
By: Jason Bechard

Hey, I Watched This! Reviewing Movies I've watched recently.

Hey there, Hi there, Ho there! Welcome back! I've got an "interesting" film this month, so let's get to it.

This month's film is Paradise Hills (2019).

Directed by Alice Waddington, and written by Brian DeLeeuw, Nacho Vigalondo, and Waddington. Starring Emma Roberts (We're the Millers, American Horror Story), Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$), Awkwafina (Ocean's Eight, Crazy Rich Asians), Eiza González (Baby Driver, Welcome to Marwen), and Milla Jovovich (Yes, THAT Milla Jovovich).

Here's the IMDB synopsis, "Uma wakes up in an apparently idyllic school for young ladies called Paradise, meant to reform her and her new friends. But there's a darker secret behind its walls."

*INSERT OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING HERE*

This flick is weird. I kinda like weird.

Visually, this film looks great. A slightly futuristic "renaissance" aesthetic, a slight steampunk vibe, with costuming that can only be described as "Lady Gaga-esque high fashion". Beautiful locations and set pieces. Interesting visual effects that fit in well with the rest of the film's aesthetic, with the exception of the film's climax, which I'll get to later. This film looks really cool. (Apparently, aesthetic popped up in my word-a-day calendar.)

The story is where things get weird, and not in a good way. The film opens with a lavish wedding celebration, that looks similar to the infamous Masquerade scene from The Phantom of the Opera Musical. Our first hints this is in the future, are the "Stormtrooper-like" guards, and the floating car outside. The bride and groom slip off to consummate their union, with the bride showing an odd look on her face?

*2 Months Earlier* The bride to be, "Uma" (Emma Roberts), wakes up in a strange place. The door opens, she tries to run, and quickly discovers she is on a remote island, with no means of escape. She meets "The Duchess" (Jovovich), the head of the facility, where it is explained that she is there to work on her anger management issues, and needs to at least try to make it work for 2 months.

Uma meets her roommates, "Chloe" (Macdonald), who is there to learn a healthier lifestyle and lose weight, and "Yu" (Awkwafina), who is needs to work on her social skills. Another girl, "Amarna" (González) takes a "liking" to Uma.

The societal structure of this "world" is never fully and clearly explained, but there is plenty of mention of a divided class structure, Uppers vs Lowers. Uma is an Upper, whose family is struggling, and the approaching marriage can save them, but she is already in love with a Lower man. Chloe is a Lower, and Yu is a Lower, and was sent to live with her Upper relatives. Amarna, is an Upper Pop star, and it is not initially clear why she is there, although it is rumoured to be alcoholism, which it is not.

A few strange scenes of what appear to be obvious brainwashing techniques, and things start to turn darker. That's when things start to fall apart for me.

Amarna is attracted to Uma, which goes against her "public image", and she devises an escape plan. But before they can escape, Amarna is suddenly cleared to leave. Uma's true love shows up as an attendant on the island, and claims to have an escape plan, but it is delayed as well. When an unexpected arrival to the island sets off the alarms, we see The Duchess get VERY angry and strange things start to happen round her. Doors closing, windows breaking? With Amarna already gone, and Uma's time almost up, Uma, Chloe, and Yu, discover they are being drugged at night, and decide to try and escape using Amarna's plan. But Yu gets taken away. Uma and Chloe follow to find a lab where Yu is about to be euthanized. Shenanigans ensue, the escape is on as the girls delve deeper into the facility, and discover, they haven't been getting treatment, since none of them have shown any improvement in 2 months, but have been instead studied in every possible scenario. Including Uma's lover being hired to learn Uma's love making techniques. They then discover bandaged women who explain that they are surgically altered to look like them, and train to study them, to take their places in society. Here's the bizarre climax. Yu doesn't survive the escape passed the doppelgangers, Uma and Chloe stumble in to an underground cave full of plant life (rose bushes). Chloe is engulfed by the plant life, and Uma finds The Duchess in the midst of the plants, feeding on a body? WHAT? The Duchess is the plants? WHAT?! With no explanation whatsoever, this reveal just does not fit the rest of the story. The Duchess is basically Poison Ivy from Batman, but they are a long way from Gotham! UGH!! Uma's doppelganger arrives to help Uma, they kill The Duchess, and escape. The movie ends back at the wedding, and it appears Uma is free and the doppelganger is taking her place.

Sure I've glossed over large portions, but I think my point is made. This story had potential but really falls apart, with unexplained plot holes, and time lapses that make no sense, not to mention the Duchess reveal. WOW, what a mess! I did kind of like the ending though.

The acting is pretty well done. This is another film, where no one really outshines the others, and everyone does really well, with what they are given. In the bizarre context of this films aesthetic, all the characters are played believably. I just wish they had a better script to play with.

This is a tough film for me to rate. As I write this review I feel like I am on a teeter-totter. I like it, but it is a mess! I have no choice but to play the middle.

I give Paradise Hills (2019) 3 out of 5 stars.

I encourage you to check it out and please tell me what you think of it. Maybe I missed some things that could change my opinion. I feel like I really hope this is the case.

See you next month folks!

Please, feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions, down below! I'd love to hear from you!

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