Pros: surroundings; the idea of a dystopian world with a boarding house for improvement Cons: logical and plot gaps; acting; lack of depth in the script “The Secrets of Paradise Hills” / Paradise Hills
Directed by Alice Waddington
Starring: Emma Roberts (Uma), Milla Jovovich (Duchess), Jeremy Irvine (Marcus), Awkwafina (Yu), Eiza Gonzalez (Amarna), Danielle MacDonald (Chloe), Daniel Horvath (Favorite), etc.
Companies Nostromo Pictures, Colina Paraiso AIE, Crea SGR
Year of release 2019
The plot takes place in an elite boarding house, where those who do not meet the expectations of their loved ones are sent. A girl named Uma (Emma Roberts) ends up there – she opposed the will of the family, so she was sent for improvement. Uma is horrified to find herself imprisoned under close surveillance by staff. The heroine finds herself surrounded by sickeningly perfect decorations and identical clothes. In addition to certain aesthetics, residents of the boarding house are forced to attend procedures aimed at controlling consciousness. The manager (Milla Jovovich) calls the place an “emotional healing center,” but Uma suspects that there is something else hiding behind the immaculate surroundings. The girl plans an escape, inciting her new acquaintances to rebel.
It is worth noting that the events of the film take place in a kind of dystopian world, where there is a division into “higher” and “lower” strata of society. Representatives of the “highest”, whose relatives pay for expensive improvements, end up in the boarding house.
In some ways, the concept of distribution into social strata, as well as the luxurious life of the elite, is reminiscent of The Hunger Games. True, the screenwriters of “The Secret of Paradise Hills” do not bother to show how the “inferior” exist. And in general, the film tells quite a bit about the peculiarities of building a society, concentrating only on the airy surroundings of the boarding house.
It’s hard to argue with the fact that director Alice Waddington delivers beautiful images. Before working in film, she was involved in photography, costume design and worked on commercials for advertising agencies. Waddington has really succeeded in visualizing beauty, but definitely not in full-length cinematography.
The director is so committed to pretentious visuals that he completely forgets about the semantic load. The result is meager – Waddington’s film techniques could work successfully for perfume advertising, but for a film with famous actresses it is a complete failure.
Emma Roberts and Milla Jovovich apparently didn’t receive much direction from the production team, so their emotions don’t seem real in the film. There is not much Milla Jovovich in the frame, but Emma Roberts, who finds herself at the center of the story, resembles a doll with rehearsed lines, behind which neither fear for life nor a desire to overcome the system is hidden.
The puppet-like unrealism of the production would be appropriate if “The Secrets of Paradise Hills” were a full-fledged fairy tale. The film was billed as a sci-fi thriller. By the way, in addition to the poor genre setting, it turned out to have an unbearably many logical and plot gaps.
Thus, the essence of one of the heroines resembles a fairy-tale creature, but its origin (or at least a hint of the character’s idea) is not explained. It’s also better not to analyze how the boarding house is structured and how it functions, otherwise too many mistakes will be discovered. The lines of the main character and those who appear on her path are very simplified (so what is happening begins to get boring quite quickly).
The film is not saved even by the obvious message of accepting oneself and freeing oneself from the roles imposed by society, which imply complete humility. The writers’ attempt to make a bold statement in the spirit of The Handmaid’s Tale falls awkwardly flat. Still, such scenarios should be deeper and more thoughtful, and one picture decorated with flowers is not enough.
The idea for the film “Secrets of Paradise Hills” may not be the newest, but it could turn out to be an interesting fantasy. Unfortunately, the filmmakers only focused on the visual elements, which is why the film was a failure.
a beautiful and empty attempt to make science fiction with a social statement.