I recently had the opportunity to see Alice Waddington’s trippy cinematic fairytale PARADISE HILLS. Penned by Waddington as well as Nacho Vigalondo (COLOSSAL) and Brian DeLeeuw (DANIEL ISN’T REAL), the film follows main character Uma (Emma Roberts) as she awakens to find herself at a weird treatment center called Paradise Hills. Instead of treating addiction issues or eating disorders, however, Paradise Hills offers guaranteed attitude adjustments for young women who refuse to conform to the societal norms of the fictional universe in which the story takes place. Think THE HUNGER GAMES, but instead of Tributes and adolescent battle royale there is a strict class system of “Uppers” and “Lowers.” As Uma begrudgingly commences her therapy and even makes a few friends along the way, she gradually discovers that there is a much more sinister side to Paradise Hills than anyone could imagine.
Waddington’s directorial debut is packed with gorgeous, surreal imagery. The unsettling Wonderland vibe extends to the lavish costume and production design as well, with bondage-ish princess dresses, palatial architecture, and an abundance of thorny roses.
Emma Roberts project choices continue to impress me with her turn as Uma. Though we’ve definitely seen her play various versions of the snarky ingenue, her portrayal of the conflicted Uma nicely balances the usual sass with palpable angst.
It Girl Awkwafina plays the anxiety-ridden black sheep, Yu. Though she doesn’t get a ton of screen time, her performance painfully illustrates her character’s troubling and impossible circumstances.
Other supporting characters include Miss PATTI CAKE$ herself Danielle Macdonald (seriously, you need to see PATTI CAKE$) as the Southern Belle type, Eiza González (BABY DRIVER) as a reformed party girl pop star, as well as Milla Jovovich taking on the delightfully weird role of head mistress.
The end result is a beautiful yet nightmarish allegory for being true to oneself in a world where every detail is as wicked as it is lavish. Needless to say, I highly recommend checking it out! Samuel Goldwyn Films released PARADISE HILLS in select theaters on 10/25, and on 11/1 the dreamy thriller will be available On Demand and digital. Check out the trailer!
If you’d like to score your very own copy of PARADISE HILLS, AICN is giving away TWO free iTunes downloads of the film! Email me at email@example.com with the subject TAKE ME DOWN TO THE PARADISE HILLS! The first two emails to hit my inbox win! Good luck.
aka Annette Kellerman