Released: 15th March 2018
Seen: 1st April 2018
“That Should Be A Song”
A band of outlaws hide high up in the Mountains. The group pass the hours searching for treasure while they wait for the full moon to lend its magic, bring the music and make the spirits fly. That, my friends, is the Wikipedia description of Paradox and it’s the best description you’re going to get because this film is so goddamn poorly written that actually describing it’s “Plot” is a feat that no one should even try to put in their own words because there is no way of understanding just what the hell is going on.
This film has no structure of any kind, there is no real story to be told here. What seems like a cheesy western starring Neil Young ends up being an attempt at a concert film as some points, a visual album at others, and a complete mess at all times. There is no way of knowing what time period this is meant to be in, they dress like it’s an old western but they also dig up computer keyboards at random points. They’ll have Neil Young sing and people float when he does, but only when it’s plugged into an electric amplifier and only two people float at a time because that’s all the rigs they could get. Willie Nelson and Neil Young rob a seed bank, which is a different bank to the regular bank Neil Young robs early in the film. If it feels like I’m making up weird random things in rapid succession I promise you that I’m not, all of those are actual things that actually happen in the actual film.
“Have they invented pens yet?”
This film does have the slight advantage of having Neil Young handling the soundtrack and it is genuinely good. Neil Young knows how to write a song and hearing him play “Show Me” will always get a smile. There is a lot of good in the soundtrack but there’s also nothing good done with the performances. Granted, these are not professional actors. This is Neil Young and his backing band Promise Of The Real so I don’t expect them to give great performances but I do kind of expect that when Neil Young and the Promise Of The Real are on stage playing their instruments that I believe they’re playing their instruments. There is a scene where this film suddenly becomes a concert film (And I mean suddenly, there is no rhyme or reason to it) and if I couldn’t see the drummer hitting the beats, I wouldn’t believe anyone on stage was actually playing.
There is also, very clearly, no actual script here. If there is a script, it was written on dinner napkins about 30 seconds before the camera started rolling. The dialogue is awful, the plotline is non-existent. Things happen because they happen, there is no reason beyond that. On Netflix, this film is described as “Dreamlike” which would be acceptable if “Dreamlike” was a substitute term for “Incompetent”. You can have all the dreamlike imagery you want but even the most insane dreamlike films on the planet have some sense of rules to them, some form of meaning. David Lynch is probably responsible for the weirdest dreamlike imagery in cinema, but every shot is thought out and he knows what each shot means. This doesn’t have that. This is a fever dream written by a bad writer who is bad at writing.
Visually this film is a complete mess, worse than the most amateur films I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen first-year film school students who understand how film works better than the director here does… and the director here is Daryl Hannah. Daryl Hannah has been in the industry since the early 80’s, at this point she should understand how basic film techniques work. When I say basic I mean that they don’t even focus the film half the time. Every 4th shot has some kind of overlay in Premiere to make it look like old footage which could be an interesting aesthetic choice if it happened for a specific reason. There is a scene where doors slamming makes no sound. Think about that for a second, they couldn’t be bothered to put in the sound of a door slamming. This film appears to have been shot during the great tripod shortage of 2017 because every single shot is handheld by someone who is clearly not used to holding a camera still for long periods of time. It’s a visual mess that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of film could’ve avoided, Daryl Hannah has more than a cursory knowledge so there is literally no reason why she shouldn’t have noticed the problems.
The concept behind this film baffles me like nothing else, I’m unsure if it’s meant to be an indie film or a visual album. Either way, it’s bad but the fact I can’t tell if this was meant to advertise an album or if it’s a real film says a lot about how poor it is at conveying its message. I think they’re trying to have an environmental message, judging by the bit in the middle where Willie Nelson and Neil Young break into a seed bank to steal seeds, but they don’t do it well. They don’t do anything well except maybe the shots of people floating in the air through the power of Neil Young’s music and even those suck because it only happens to 2 people per shot. It’s just a painful watch
Paradox is a film that has no reason to exist. It has no useful purpose. It’s not artistic, it’s incompetent. It’s not dreamlike, it’s poorly edited. It’s not interesting, it’s confounding. It breaks every rule of filmmaking for no reason other than basic incompetence. The soundtrack is this films only saving grace, but even that’s not enough because if I want to listen to a soundtrack I will just buy a goddamn album.