Synopsis: Set in 1999 Los Angeles, veteran police officer Dave Brown, the last of the renegade cops, works to take care of his family, and struggles for his own survival.
Release Date: February 10, 2012
Thoughts: Harrelson has come a long way from behind the bar in Cheers. His first steps into film were screwball comedies but his taste has become more eclectic as the years go by. What I enjoy about him is that he continues to develop — making each role a challenge and something fresh. His take on a stereotypical character in 2011’s Friends With Benefits was a welcome surprise. His Oscar-nominated performances in The People vs. Larry Flynt and The Messenger were no fluke as both were strongly layered outings. Here he reteams with the director of The Messenger and is backed by a knock-out supporting cast. I’ve heard he’s so good in this that were it not for the tremendous blitz for George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) that he’d be looking at Oscar gold. Not having seen this, I’d still be happy to see him make the Best Actor nominees as an upset.
Synopsis: An unhappy couple rediscover their lost love for one another when a 10 year old boy comes to visit them for the summer…
Stars: Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith, Elijah Wood, Thora Birch
Director: Mary Agnes Donoghue
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: An American remake of the French film Le Grand Chemin (The Grand Highway), Paradise was conceived as a star-vehicle for the then-married duo of Griffth and Johnson. Playing a couple teetering on the brink of separation one can’t help but see some real life parallels. Johnson and Griffth would eventually divorce (for the second time!) in 1996 but here they play well off each other in a sweet, harmless puff of a film that I’ve always found to be a nice diversion. While the couple receives top billing, the film unquestionably belongs to Wood as a sensitive boy sent to live with his mom’s friend while the mother gets her life together. The conceit that the mother would leave her son with people he doesn’t know for an entire summer always was a creaky plot contrivance. The couple has suffered a loss and if the mother and Griffth’s character were such good friends, she would know that a young boy staying with them that is roughly the same age as their son would have been seems a little rough.
Wood was just starting off in Hollywood and from his performance here it’s easy to see why his career took off. The acting never seems forced or false and he holds his own, creating a character that’s sensitive and justifiably standoffish. His developing father-son-esque relationship with Johnson brings out the best in both. I’ve never found Johnson to be an actor to write home about but he does good work here…his scenes with Wood and Griffith have an authenticity that’s hard to fake. Griffith’s voice will wear on you after a while but she’s remarkably restrained here…she’ll never be as good as she was in Working Girl but this was a departure of a role for her and ultimately she acquits herself nicely.
If Wood makes a good impression here, Birch walks away with the movie. Precocious, mischievous, and wise beyond her young years she buddies up to Wood and forms a great friendship over the summer. It would have been so easy to insert a little growing romance between the two but when Birch pats Wood on the back and says “You’re my best friend”…it’s more of a heart-tugger than any unrequited love that could exist between the two.
With a movie filled with some obvious clichés it’s not surprising that this failed to ignite the box office or gather much praise from the critics but never you mind that. What you have here is an overlooked movie that has a lot of heart and no major agenda. Give it a spin.