New Sci-Fi Releases: Paradise Hills (2019) - Reviewed

Told from a similar viewpoint as The Handmaid's Tale, The Hunger Games, and numerous other genre pieces that see women being held down by some dominant dystopian force or ruling class, this week's release of Paradise Hills will most likely fall by the wayside. 

Using a wondrous color palette that looks fantastic with a post modern fashion sense ripped right out of The Fifth Element, director Alice Waddington takes a sharp jab at where our current political trends might be taking us. But, she completely and wholeheartedly swaps substance for style in a movie that needed a better edit, a stronger script, and a bit more heart. 

When women are taken to a reclusive island at which they are imprisoned and trained to be subservient to a male dominated society, we once again learn how powerful the female spirit can be when given the chance to lead. However, this film goes to all lengths to look pretty and sound amazing while not really offering a great delivery system for its thematically challenged story. We've all seen this movie before. Yet, other projects have done a far better job of pitting a group of strong willed women against a controlling faction. Despite the absolutely gorgeous use of bright colors and a cast of fantastic actors, the logic of the story never really adds up. 

Making its way to the streaming services this weekend, Paradise Hills definitely has the look of a major cinematic release and could have probably done well on the art house circuit with a good marketing team behind it. Sadly enough, the total package is not as strong as its core. Using the skillful talents of Milla Jovovich as a primary antagonist and the pink haired Emma Roberts to their full extent, this movie centers on creating a future world that's both sinister and dark underneath the shimmering facade of wonderful colors, beautiful environments and a plot that's not quite as smart as one of its obvious influences: Sucker Punch. Although there isn't the gun toting or massive action scenarios, this feels eerily similar in tone, story, and final product. 

All the women of Paradise Hills chew up this script and spit it out. They're all fully engaged in creating believable characters that we can sympathize with. It's actually sad that they didn't go the extra length to make this into a really good movie. All the pieces are there. But the puzzle never gets finished. There's a lot of confusion as to some of the character's actions while others seem nearly fleshed out. With a better draft this could have been another grim look at how societal control mechanisms try to reform women into some image of perfection or acceptance despite their own sexuality, personalities, or belief systems. Unfortunately, a lot of the message is lost while cultivating a virginal fashion sense that almost seems destructive to its own narrative. 

This is a fair watch that maybe will get a return visit at some point. Right now, I'm just going to say that it's a decent movie that could have been SO much better. Waddington seems talented but her first full length directorial effort is hampered by many freshman mistakes. 

-Chris George