October 23, 2019 Paradise Hills (Movie Review)
Who would you become in order to survive? Emma Roberts and Milla Jovovich step into a fantasy world of fashion and nightmares in Paradise Hills. Samuel Goldwyn Films present the film in theaters beginning Friday, October 25th, 2019, then to Digital and On Demand as of Friday, November 1st.
Prickly pear Uma (Roberts: Scream Queens series, American Horror Story series) awakes on an isolated island flowing with lavish roses and lush, white-gloved opulence. Here she meets the mysterious Duchess (Jovovich: The Fifth Element 1997, Resident Evil: Afterlife 2010) who explains that she is now a resident at a center for holistic healing, a lavish estate that allows upper-class young women to vanquish their physical and emotional shortcomings within two months.
Outspoken and hellbent on escape, Uma befriends several other residents who are having trouble adjusting. For sweet but sassy Southern belle Chloe (Danielle MacDonald: Patti Cake$ 2017, Dumplin’ 2018), anxious Yu (Awkwafina: Ocean’s Eight 2018, Crazy Rich Asians 2018), and sultry popstar Amarna (Eiza González: Baby Driver 2017, Alita: Battle Angel 2019), Paradise Hills never feels quite right. When one of the ladies discovers a sinister secret hiding behind its beautiful walls, the friends will have to attempt an escape before the island’s evil consumes them all.
Clocking in at 95 minutes, Paradise Hills marks an exceptional feature debut for Spanish creative photographer Alice Waddington (Neon Boots: Marcela Mansergas, Weaving Dreams – Branded Content Commercial documentary short 2013, Disco Inferno short 2015), and was written by Waddington with Brian DeLeeuw (Curvature 2017, Daniel Isn’t Real 2019), and Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes 2007, Colossal 2016). It also features the acting talents of Jeremy Irvine (War Horse 2011, Mamma Mia! 2018), Arnaud Valois (Charlie Says 2006, BPM 2017), and more.
With the youthful and sleek aesthetic of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) and Maleficent (2014), along with all the very best qualities of a trip down the rabbithole (preferably Tim Burton style), Paradise Hills is a wonderfully alluring visual experience. Full of opulent costumes from Alberto Valcárcel (The Zone series, Superlopez 2018), a truly elegant original score by Lucas Vidal (Sleep Tight 2011, Fast & Furious 6 2013), and the showstopping cinematography of Josu Inchaustegui (The Cold Light of Day 2012, Gun City 2018), this is one blend of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Thriller that you absolutely do not want to miss!
Sorry boys, but Paradise Hills is all about the ladies! From its talented director to its wonderful cast, this is a female-led fantasy that gets turned on its head before its conclusion. In the starring roles, Jovovich and Roberts feed off one another flawlessly. A seasoned actress with a flawless profile, Jovovich dons some of the most artistically inspiring gowns throughout while presenting a character who is both saccharine sweet and venomous.
Never falling under her spell, the rebellious Uma allows Roberts to portray a young woman who is certain of her own identity and what she believes is right and wrong. With a dogged determination and an immense sense of identity, she is the relatable heroine of this modern fairytale and a wonderful example for young women.
Meanwhile, her co-stars—MacDonald, Awkwafina, and González—also provide magnificent performances in their roles. MacDonald’s Chloe is a Southern belle who is sweet, but having a mind of her own makes her too sassy for her traditional family. They’d also love to change her weight and slim her down, so she can be married off to a rich suitor.
Awkwafina’s Yu suffers from panic attacks, is perpetually wearing a crown of spiked headphones, and is all-around dissatisfied with finding herself a prisoner in paradise. For her part, González’ Amarna is a seductive songstress who knows how to work the system. Together the three friends represent so many different facets of today’s modern women, and their ability to work together and forge a friendship stands as a clear message of unity.
In so many ways, visually and story-wise, Paradise Hills toes the line between nostalgia and futuristic feels, a perfect fairytale for 2019. With multiple layers and metaphors baked into its intelligent screenplay, this is a story that goes far beyond simple fantasy to speak about women, change, societal pressure, socio-political issues, and so very much more.
At face value, sure, you can simply lose yourself in the stunningly vibrant visuals and the artful gowns. However, if you are someone who hopes for a deeper resonance in your entertainment, Paradise Hills literally has it all! Never going to change, Cryptic Rock give Paradise Hills 5 of 5 stars.