A young woman has been proposed to by a rich suitor. Her mother wants the marriage to go through since it will cement the family’s social status. The bride to be is less enthusiastic. To help convince her to get married she is sent to a a rehab center on an island. Beneath the beautiful exterior seems to be something sinister, however.
Paradise Hills is a 2019 release that is part Disney, part Final Fantasy. Think Kingdom Hearts without all the confusing backstory. It is unique and recognizable at the same time. The movie’s look is its greatest strength. It also highlights its greatest weakness.
The film’s aesthetic will immediately draw the audience in. The movie’s opening takes place at an opulent ball with all the attendees are dressed in lavish costumes. There is song and dance with the whole sequence looking like a Disney classic.
There are also bright lights and beautiful colors to add to the story. Paradise Hills is a neat mix of old Hollywood and steampunk. It is almost a homage to different eras and styles of storytelling. However, just because it looks familiar does not make it any less stunning.
A case can be made that the movie is more style over substance. The amazing set design and costumes tend to overshadow the rather large cast. While it is clear that much work was put into the concept of the film, the backstories of the characters are explained in a line or two.
The obvious question becomes is this really an issue? Specific character details are certainly sparse. That being said, Paradise Hills does address a number of themes over the course of its runtime. Fairy tales are more known for the message they give, than the actual characters delivering them. The same is true of director Alice Waddington’s movie.
Some may be turned off by this decision. The beautiful scenery may be seen as a way to paper over the thin characters. While there may be some truth to that statement, it is also apparent this was an intentional choice by Waddington. Still, those who are looking for a character study will not find one here.
Whether a person is a fan of character driven stories or not, the cast will certainly leave them disappointed. This is not because they do anything wrong. It is more a case of being given little to work with. There simply is not much required from them. When they are given a little more, they do an excellent job. Emma Roberts has some great moments and Milla Jovovich is perfectly cast as The Duchess, for example.
Paradise Hills is a futuristic throwback. A fairy tale with touches of steampunk aesthetic, the young adult movie is unafraid to deal with mature themes. The sheer beauty will sometimes drown out the characters, but this is a very enjoyable fable for modern audiences.
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