This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.
We're no stranger to the darker vapid self-serving side of Hollywood being portrayed on screen so any new film that aims to have a fresh new take will pique interest. Charlie Day's directorial debut wants to be said new fresh take, and although delightfully satirical, it doesn't quite hit the heights you want it to. However, it is immensely entertaining, jarring, uncomfortable and feels all too near reality, plus the blend of darker jokes and basic slapstick actually works well.
An adult John Doe, with the mental capacity of a 5-year-old is abandoned in downtown LA. He is spotted by a Hollywood producer as he happens to resemble a notoriously difficult method actor. From this moment, Latte Pronto, is born. Dragged through from one ordeal to the next, one minute the talk of the town the next a disgrace. And all the while accompanied by his struggling publicist, Lenny, who seems just as clueless as him.
We are reminded throughout, this is not a paradise, Hollywood or perhaps LA will pick you up and spit you out but somehow Latte Pronto survives it all. Reminiscent of Peter Sellers' Chance in Being There, Latte Pronto is also abandoned, simple minded and managers to find his way in the world. Left by the state to his own fate when they won't pay for his rehabilitation, it seems he is doomed. Some might say ending up in Hollywood is a doomed existence and his ignorance is not quite bliss.
Each event or catastrophe that happens to Latte is paced out, not overwhelmed. An almost natural of flow of events doesn't make the film feel like the action is moving too fast, but more like a cycle. Stars only have a limited time in the spotlight before the next shiny new thing comes along and Fool's Paradise encapsulates this perfectly.
Director Charlie Day, casting himself as said fool in paradise would seem like an odd choice. Day, who can talk a mile a minute himself utters but a few words throughout and mostly while playing Sir Tom Bingsley, Pronto's double. Having Lenny, played with plenty of pain and suffering by Ken Jeong is impeccable. Downing energy drinks every 5 seconds and literally running his mouth off, Jeong makes Lenny the tragic character of the film and most likely the real fool in the so-called paradise. The parade of who's who actors is also very enjoyable to watch as each actor slips very comfortably into their role. Its clear that actors in this Hollywood world relish a satire about the very industry they're in.
Although we see the constant dark side to Hollywood, the never-ending sunshine obviously masking a lot we don't see, the brightest part of the film is Latte and Lenny's budding friendship that unfolds slowly and, in some parts, ridiculously. With genuine laughs and amusing characters, there still feels like the film is holding back and went in favour of a standard plot than pushing any boundaries. Fool's Paradise is structured well and entertaining from beginning to end and a solid directing debut from Day. Maybe next time he'll get to be more eccentric.
Signature Entertainment presents Fool's Paradise on Digital Platforms 28th August