Veering between tedious and extremely overblown, Paradise Cove is a bizarre hodgepodge of ideas that isn’t helped by a poor script and some mediocre performances, resulting in a film that fails to engage at all.
Knox Bannett (Todd Grinnell) and his wife Tracey (Mena Suvari) move to Malibu, California to restore Knox’s mother’s beach house and sell it on so they can live out their dream lives together. When they get there, they encounter Bree (Kristin Bauer van Straten), a homeless lady who lives under the property and who seems intent on remaining, much to the horror of its new inhabitants. That isn’t enough for Bree though, who torments the couple, exploiting the fact that they can’t get rid of her and complicating their plans at every turn.
The bare bones of a thriller set-up are in here somewhere, but the film runs into problems from the very beginning, and it becomes obvious early on that the script just isn’t going to build on those foundations. There are barely any conversations that feel believable, and often the chemistry between characters is entirely non-existent as the actors struggle to bring any aspect of them to life. Knox and Tracey are often lamenting their lives one minute and on the precipice of romantic bliss the very next, all as if the very real danger at, or under, their doorstep isn’t real at all.
That danger is, itself, completely ineffective. Bree suffers from the same affliction as any of the other characters in this film, except perhaps for the fact that through her, the script attempts to reach a level of depth that only makes her more laughable. Her pontifications and monologues are sometimes mildly entertaining for their sheer hamminess, while at other moments merely contribute to the general sense that a lot of what actually happens in the film feels inexplicable, and character reactions are often so jarring that they elicit a chuckle of laughter rather than manage to build any of the tension the film desperately needs for a satisfying pay-off.
On the bright side, director Martin Guigui manages to evoke the Malibu setting quite well, and there is a sense that the potential for some creepiness does exist in that environment, but the best the film ever manages is to suggest it. Shots of the house itself, particularly from the surrounding beach exterior, are effective and imply a sense of tension that unfortunately never truly exists, while the score, which also feels quite evocative, does its best to add to that feeling of foreboding, but does so in vain.
Ultimately, the only enjoyment to be extracted from Paradise Cove is in the weirdness of the character interactions, which allow the odd guffaw, but the reality is that it feels like a bit of a slog by the time it comes to its, not at all rousing denouement. Again, the film attempts to grasp for a hidden layer of profundity with an ending that is intended to perhaps elicit an emotional tear or two but only succeeds in drawing out a weary eye-roll as the cavalcade of ridiculousness finally comes to an end, leaving in its wake a film that won’t live long in the memory.
Dir: Martin Guigui
Scr: Sherry Klein
Cast: Todd Grinnell, Mena Suvari, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Eddie Goines
Prd: Dahlia Waingort, Nick Stellate
DoP: Massimo Zeri
Music: Jeff Cardoni
Runtime: 103 mins
Paradise Cove is available on-demand from February 12th in the US and Canada