Gus Van Sant's latest film, Paranoid Park, adapts Blake Nelson's young adult of crime and non-punishment, as a Portland teen, Alex (Gabe Nevins) accidentally kills a security guard late one night. More than a little adrift in a world where adult supervision is either vaguely distracted or completely absent, Alex tries to come to terms with what he's done. ... Paranoid Park's along the same lines of Van Sant's recent films -- Elephant, Last Days, Gerry-- all explorations of the adolescent (or post-adolescent) state, full of long tracking shots of the backs of people's heads and full of a simmering discontent that manifests itself as either shrugging apathy or homicidal fury. The ugly fact is that Van Sant's recent modus operandi has crossed the line from 'groove' to 'rut' - he's become the filmmaking equivalent of Dazed and Confused's Wooderson: He gets older, but his protagonists stay the same age.
And as protagonists go, Alex is pretty unreliable; Paranoid Park (the title refers to the unofficial skatepark that Alex boards at) unfolds as Alex writes down the happenings of the past few days. "I didn't do so well in creative writing, but I'll get it all on paper eventually." Nevins may not be an actor (Van Sant cast the film putting an open call for auditions on My Space) but he's easy enough to watch - sleepily charismatic, agreeably engaging. And Van Sant's adaptation of Nelson's novel has a nice ear for the self-aware, self-mocking tone of modern teen discourse. When his friend, plucky punk Macy (Lauren McKinney) asks about Alex leaving his cheerleader girlfriend Jennifer (Taylor Momsen) "Why'd you break up with her?" Alex cuts to what she's really asking: "You mean, why'd I go out with her?