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Paranoid Park (2008)

There is something so maddening about Gus Van Sant. He keeps brushing up against greatness, making you think that he’ll finally break through and make a movie that is satisfying both as art and entertainment, but inevitably, he pulls back from fully committing to either. Paranoid Park is his latest effort, and the first of two films he has coming uot this year. It’s the story of a teenaged skater in Portland, Oregon, who is involved in the accidental killing of a security guard, which lends itself well to Vn Sant’s recent obsession with youthful alienation.

The good news is that Paranoid Park is mostly a good movie and worth seeing — the cinematography (by the brilliant Christopher Doyle) effortlessly takes on a lot of the heavy lifting, capturing the damp and cold of my beloved Pacific Northwest, and his use of shallow focus is effective in isolating kids who drift through the adult world around them. And the story is smart and engaging, unfolding with a light touch when it could easily have been heavy-handed. Unfortunately, this makes the missteps all the more clunky, especially the decision to use non-professional actors, who mostly perform at a sub-school-play level.