Many moons ago, in the good year 2019, I heard of a very aesthetically pleasing but ultimately disappointing film called Paradise Hills.
This was the image being disseminated to the people:
I am clearly the target audience for this movie.
When quarantine started, I looked for it, but alas it was like seven whole dollars to rent and I have a thing about renting movies when I have subscriptions to like every streaming service on the planet.
This week, I searched for it on a whim, and lo! ’Tis streaming on Showtime!!
I watched it all at once – a rarity these days – and indeed, it is very My Aesthetic.
It’s a dystopian futurism, and opens with a great angle of a bride in a metal face necklace with TWO veils (one on each side of her head so you think it’s a Juliet veil but it’s not) singing on the shoulders of waiters with choreographed dancers in concentric circles holding out her veil and how did they rehearse this??
We flash back to when Uma was first sent to this finishing school for Upper girls because she won’t marry this guy who we find out bought her father’s company and automated it or something.
They all wear these white outfits with corsets and frilly collars and there’s a carousel horse they go up and down on while they’re being reconditioned and they give Uma pink hair. She has two roommates, Patti Cake$ (who’s fat; literally, that’s her whole shtick) and Awkwafina (who’s not posh enough), and there’s a popstar who first rats her out and then has a crush on her (who wanted to use her own voice to sing and NOT because she’s drunk, that’s a mean lie spread by her label). Milla Jovovich is the Woman in Charge and she’s fake sweet until people piss her off and she cracks.
We find out that the girls are all sedated at dinner and every night there are trips to surgery and in the third act you find out that they’re actually doing plastic surgery on Lower girls (who we’ve never met before) to make them look like the Upper girls and then substituting them.
So you think they just kill the Upper girls and send their substitutes home, right? WRONG!!
MILLA JOVOVICH IS A PLANT LADY! She’s sucking the life out of them with her roses … or something … and then hanging on to their dead carcasses in her underground lair! Except Uma’s substitute decides to save her? And then they run off together. And we come back to the opening scene, and the substitute is the one who’s singing, but the girl in the bedroom is Uma, and she kills the guy and runs away, leaving her substitute to live out her old life.
This movie gave me everything I came for:
white steampunk ballerina costumes
cotton candy hair (but that hairline needed Help)
pansexuality, which I fully expect in every post-religion dystopian fantasy
a bonkers third act
and it made me forget I hate Emma Roberts’s acting
It also gives us a class struggle, but fails to show the Lowers (other than a traitorous boyfriend) UNTIL they have already taken on the faces of the Uppers they’re replacing.
This is like telling the story of Versailles and then only showing Marie Antoinette, who in the end gets to run away from the class divide she perpetuated and allows it to continue in her absence.
This is like telling Hunger Games from the perspective of The Capitol citizens and Katniss isn’t the protagonist, and the only time you see her is after her makeover.
This is like any dystopian novel where the children of the privileged class are the main characters but they’re completely unaware of their privilege and it goes unexamined.
Uma’s revenge against her would-be husband is only a cog in a machine. The guy didn’t create the class system, he capitalized on it. I mean, he was clearly a dick, but he wasn’t the one who created a world divided between excess and starvation. Is there anything going on with those Lowers, other than destitution? NO IDEA, WE SAW NONE OF IT.
This movie was about three drafts from actually saying something, which is unfortunate because I had so much fun watching it.
A symbol of my hubris is that it feels like I know the shape of the ending of so many things these days. I may not know exactly what’s going to happen at the end of The Queen’s Gambit, but I know what it will look and feel like. The same goes for a lot of the books I’m reading, and The Mandalorian, and The Duchess. I enjoy them, but I’m not surprised much.
I just want to be surprised.
That’s why Gideon the Ninth was such a mechayeh – I had no idea what would happen in the end! I want that unpredictability!
It’s gotten to a point where Milla Jovovich being a plant lady is almost euphoric.
So hit me up with your bonkers stories. I’m dying for them.