Seizing on a moment of spring-like weather, I biked Minnehaha Parkway down to Chicago Avenue Wednesday night. Paranoid Park was playing at the Parkway Theater, a lovably disheveled teen-run operation that fit the movie’s ambiance perfectly. Before I get to the movie, a little on the theater experience: The film was loaded backwards at first, a mistake that took ten minutes to correct, though they kept us in pitch darkness while we waited (blinded moviegoers had to be talked into their seats). Once it came on (and I am truly amazed by this), the movie played for nearly ten minutes before anyone realized that we weren’t hearing the soundtrack but rather the playlist from Pepito’s Restuarant next door. My only excuse is that those ten minutes depict a lot of skateboarding and a solitary walk on the beach—no apparent dialogue—and the music fit it all well enough. Oh, and they serve beer there now.
Paranoid Park is Gus Van Sant’s third film in what feels like a series on the psychology of the alienated and misunderstood, and I found it much more affecting than Last Days or Elephant. It’s about a city kid in Portland who, on his second visit to an alluringly dangerous under-the-freeway skatepark, becomes party to an awful event.
It reminded me of how irresistible forbidden people and places are when you’re young and how fortunate most of us are to never have to pay for the risks we take. At some moments, it had the “this could happen to you” feeling of an after-school special. But the only moral Van Sant left me with is that there’s no benefit to doing the right thing, if there even is a right thing.