Stranger Than Paradise (1984) (R)
There are genuine moments of glory in Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise"; but most of the movie's entire length is filled up with deadpan nonsense. The movie is filmed mostly in single shots with long fade outs at the end of every scene...what is the reason for this? Who knows? Roger Ebert seemed to think that it engaged the audience more and that it provided some stability and emotion for a rather unstable and emotionless movie...I disagree; but whatever.
"Stranger Than Fiction" has an annoyingly simple plot; so simple in fact that it does not even seem to merit the paper it will take to write it out. At the movie's beginning Willie (John Lurie) has a cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) who is coming to visit for ten days. He doesn't want her to visit because he's somewhat of a loafer—responsibility is not a side that he'd like to add to his TV dinner.
When Eva shows up, she's just as deadpan and uncaring as Willie is so naturally the two most antisocial people in the movie begin to get along by the time the movie is over. The best shot in the entire movie comes at the beginning, when Eva strolls down the street to "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Yet that's as exciting as it all gets: a song.
After her time with Willie, Eva goes back to Cleveland where she lives with Willie's aunt. A few months and some poker cheating later and Willie, accompanied by his friend Eddie (Richard Edson), decides that he is going to pay Eva a visit.
They show up at the house and things get a little awkward and then suddenly everyone is off to Florida...the end.
Really, it's that simple. Oh, and everyone is annoying.
Yes, you could argue that Jarmusch capture the teenage spirit of lethargy and indifference better than any other director has in the past; but my question is: why would you want to? A movie about teenage delinquency without the delinquency is like a Quentin Tarantino movie with no cursing. It defeats the whole purpose.
Now there is a dark humor to the laissez faire attitude that all the characters in "Stranger Than Paradise" exhibit. I understand why everyone loves the movie. It has a certain Woody Allen naturalistic feeling that it hard to love...believe me.
The trio of main characters are so chill that I felt cold.
Even in moments of excitement, it is rare to see more than a blank stare on any of the people. Yet this is a critic's darling and an awards show magnet and I just don't see why.
"Stranger Than Paradise" has no redeeming qualities in my mind. It's shot in black and white without purpose and the long shots do nothing but add to my growing frustration.
The performances aren't there, neither is the script, and—most importantly—neither is the point.
Thank God this movie is so short. I feel like it would have been much more entertaining if I was drunk.
Posted by Micah Jones