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‘Paradise Hills’: Costumes Kill in Feminist Dystopia

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Official Trailer for “Paradise Hills”

“Paradise Hills” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. After the festival, Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired it for distribution. 

Samuel Goldwyn Films Brings Feminist Thriller From Sundance To Theaters on October 25th

The movie touts a novice creative team but an impressive cast of young actresses. Behind the camera is director Alice Waddington and behind the story are screenwriters Brian DeLeeuw and Nacho Vigalondo, none of whom have many noticeable credits to their names. The cast, however, has a few more familiar faces. It features Emma Roberts as the main character alongside Awkwafina, Danielle Macdonald, Milla Jovoich, and Eiza González.

The storyline focuses on a dystopian-like boarding school on an island. Young women wake up on this island and find themselves part of a social experiment, one that emotionally reforms them into becoming conformant members of their surroundings. Beneath the school’s idyllic surface, however, there is something threatening at hand, putting the girls in grave danger.

Mediocre Script, but Set & Costume Designs Save the Day

It sounds fascinating enough—almost like a modern YA-thriller rendition of the old British TV show, “The Prisoner.” Unfortunately, the script received heavy criticism at Sundance for having uncanny dialogue and numerous plot holes. What saved the film in most critics’ eyes were the set and costume designs. 

Laia Colet and Sol Saban respectfully did the film’s set design and decoration, and Alberto Valcárcel created the costumes. Together, they built a colorful world for the characters to live in. Aesthetically, it is somewhat Hunger Games-like with flamboyant outfits, unique hairstyles, and a constant futuristic feeling of lavishness. It is more than enough to grip the audience from a visual perspective.

A Win for Feminism, But Will its Delivery Suffice?

Another area where the film received some praise was for its feminism. While the script may have been a bit hollow, the female characters have an impressive degree of complexity. Critics recognized that the women in “Paradise Hills” went beyond simple archetypes, and offered an array of original voices. Given the film industry’s current climate with #MeToo and its systemic underrepresentation of female characters on screen, it is important to see this kind of depth given to a primarily female cast, especially under the influence of a female director and in a genre that is far from a chick-flick.

However, despite whatever political angles one takes or how progressive a movie is behind the scenes, films must speak for themselves as pieces of art and entertainment. If “Paradise Hills” fails on those fronts, then its more powerful layers may go unnoticed, and sadly, it may end up forgotten despite its best qualities.

Paradise Hills Movie Poster

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