Shallow Thoughts on “Paradise Hills”

Shallow thoughts because I dosed off during it and so might have missed something. Although “shallow” might not be the best word here, because I’m going to go into some depth on the issues raised, but there might have been things raised in the movie that made them not as bad as I think.

I picked up the movie originally because it starred Emma Roberts and so might be a horrorish type movie in the vein of “Scream Queens”, and it was cheap to boot. It’s not really like that. And it’s not even clear that it counts as a horror movie, per se. And part of the problem is what makes it problematic from an overall narrative perspective. It really comes across as a movie that’s trying to express Social Justice talking points in the least interesting and most confusing way possible.

The overall premise of the movie is that a young, fiery woman is sent to some sort of re-education spa to ensure that she marries the husband her mother chose for her, when she doesn’t want to (and considers him a sociopath). There, she’s roomed with two other girls, one who is … heavy-set who is being sent there for something like eight months to lose weight, and another who was sent there to be trained to fit in with the upper class as her lower class parents are sending her to live with her upper class uncle and aunt as a way to get her into the upper class (yes, she’s moving with her auntie and uncle in Bel Air).

While that last parenthetical statement is a bit facetious, it’s also a big sign of the problem with the movie, as it doesn’t develop these things enough for us to really sympathize with their plight, but instead presumes that we will sympathize — or probably “empathize” — with their plight because it’s the sort of thing that we should sympathize with. I only realized the link to “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” when writing this post, but the world is established as being sharply divided between the upper and lower classes, far more than it is today and far closer to what existed in medieval times, with the upper class being akin to royalty and the lower class being akin to peasants. It seems like her parents and uncle and aunt were making a great sacrifice to send her to them in order to give her a better life, and learning to fit into that world, at least enough to get by, wouldn’t seem to be that unreasonable. And as the heavy-set one was overweight, surely losing some weight wouldn’t be a bad thing, especially in a world where as far as we can tell no one else is or is allowed to be that heavy. All we have as an explanation of why it wouldn’t be a good thing is that woman’s declaration that she’s okay as she is, which isn’t enough to make us sympathize with her that much and wonder if she isn’t just being obstinate and selfish. And even for the main character, she herself states that her mother wants the marriage because her family has a title but no money, and this would resolve that issue, which is a standard situation from medieval times. They add in the sociopath angle and that her prospective husband ruined her father’s business and dream, but we don’t have any reason to think that she would have accepted any other match either, nor that she had a better way to restore the family fortune. If more time had been spent on that and establishing that, we could have better seen the issues, but instead it really looks like “She has to marry someone she doesn’t love!” is doing all the work here. Add in that her love interest is eventually revealed to be a traitor — for which he ends up profusely apologizing — so that at the end she has to go off on her own to live some kind of life, the nature of which we don’t know because we don’t know enough about her to know what she wants, and end up suspecting that she doesn’t really know either.

This ties into the ending and the horror elements, involving dopplegangers and someone who absorbs energy from the non-dopplegangers to survive or something. After defeating that person — the head of the spa — the main heroine and her doppleganger head off to the party after the wedding (which the movie starts with before rewinding to the start of the spa visit) and the doppleganger leads him up to the wedding bed where the main character is actually waiting for him. She then kills him, runs off, and has the doppleganger sound the alarm and, presumably, inherit his money and position. Since the doppleganger was a surgically altered lower class person, this would lead her into the lap of luxury which would be good for her, I guess. Still, I have no idea what the main character is going to do with her life after this.

There’s also funny aside in that at one point the movie arranges for the main character to be knocked out for two weeks. This really strikes me as being what happens when I — or any other writer — get bored with outlining all the details and just want to skip to the more interesting parts, which suggests that the movie writer themselves felt that way. Still, two weeks of interactions could easily have given us some more creative ways to convert them or more details on the world they were in.

Ultimately, though, that’s why this strikes me as being a movie aiming at Social Justice points as opposed to being a good movie, because the movie relies on us already agreeing with that to be able to relate to the characters. A good movie should be able to make us feel that without us already knowing what that’s like, and should remove ambiguities that might get in the way of us realizing that. This movie doesn’t. About the only reason for me to watch it again would be if someone says that I really missed the point, likely while dozing.

2 Responses to “Shallow Thoughts on “Paradise Hills””

  1. New Year Accomplishments Update | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] never watched and ones that I had, as I watched “Casablanca”, “Jumanji”, “Paradise Hills”, “King Kong: Skull Island” (which I’m not going to talk about), and probably […]

  2. Thoughts on “Scream 4” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] I will say that in comparison to “The Birthday Cake” the movie really uses well-known actors well.  Lucy Hale of “Pretty Little Liars” is in the first death sequence, and I recognized Kristen Bell in the second, but Hayden Pantierre gets more screen time and so isn’t just a waste of a well-known name.  I’m not sure if Emma Roberts counts as “well-known” at the time of this movie, but she puts in a wonderful performance as the purported victim who might not be one at all and is another name that I recognized and also have made a bit of a mistake of buying something because she was in it. […]

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