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Review: The Paranoids




The Paranoids
Photo: Oscilloscope Pictures

An introverted writer’s failure to define himself positively to the world leads to others framing his persona to their own advantage in The Paranoids, a frustratingly underdeveloped Argentinian dramedy about the perils of emotional retreat. Thirtyish, struggling screenwriter Luciano (Daniel Hendler) doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a paranoid personality, but his pronounced penchant for creating mini-crises out of interpersonal mishaps (a one-night stand leaves him stressed about the possibility of STDs, a confrontation with an angry doorman is blown out of proportion) is one of the few easily identifiable features of his otherwise near-autistic disposition, another being a tendency toward self-abasement in his unequal friendship with macho pal Manuel (Walter Jakob), a hugely successful television producer who’s always accompanied by female companions. Manuel’s unauthorized appropriation of his loser friend’s personal peccadillos for the lead character of what becomes a hit show called The Paranoids is one of two unlikely contrivances drummed up by first-time director Gabriel Medina to artificially propel this thinnest of slacker genre narratives forward, the other being the shoe-horned introduction of Manuel’s saintly girlfriend Sofia (Jazmin Stuart) into Luciano’s sedentary, apartment-bound orbit while Manuel is conveniently overseas on business for a long stretch of time.

Medina’s declining to allow his purportedly semi-autobiographical main character physical dimensions befitting a writer committed to the couch potato life is forgivable, though accepting Hendler—a Romain Duris lookalike—as a character who spends most waking hours playing video games in a cloud of pot smoke and who’s openly mocked by female acquaintances for anti-social tendencies requires suspension of disbelief. More damaging to Hendler’s portrayal than his helplessly studly appearance is the near absence of any overarching motivation for his character at script level; whether toughing it out at his predictably humiliating day job as a man-in-a-monster-suit for children’s parties or shaking out the stress in long sequences of wordless club dancing at night, Luciano is a character devoid of perceptible goals or a desire for self-improvement, a condition that barely changes even when the beautiful Sofia begins practically throwing herself at him. Appropriately, the film’s most successful sequence is a near-wordless seduction in dual close-ups between smitten Sofia and clueless Luciano as they get stoned on his ratty couch, with cinematographer Lucio Bonelli luxuriating over thick curls of smoke and furtive glances to sell a palpable magnetism; it’s a singular scene that concocts erotic and dramatic tension entirely through atmosphere. The rest of the film, however, is enough to make one wonder if the word mumblecore translates into Spanish.

Cast: Daniel Hendler, Jazmiz Stuart, Walter Jakob, Martin Feldman, Miguel Dedovich Director: Gabriel Medina Screenwriter: Nicolas Gueilburt, Gabriel Medina Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures Running Time: 104 min Rating: NR Year: 2008 Buy: Video

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