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Diablo Cody's directorial debut Paradise popped up on our radar big time last week, and not exactly for the right reasons. The film, still scheduled for a theatrical release in October, will now be premiering on DirecTV… on Thursday. That's a sudden and under-the-radar debut for a film that by all rights should be massively anticipated, directed by the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno and starring up-and-comer Julianne Hough, Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Parks & Recreation's Nick Offerman, Holly friggin' Hunter, and Russell Brand, who continues to get work despite all logic. How can something so promising get caught in such a weird situation?
Sadly, this first trailer may help answer it. The story of a girl raised as an ultra-fundamentalist Christian, now on the Las Vegas strip to find herself, Paradise is being sold based on insights like "The world is not the Las Vegas strip," and punchlines like "In the next election, I may vote Democrat." You get some hints of Cody's trademark snappy dialogue, and I genuinely like the "L.L. Bean tote bag full of cash," but Hough is no Ellen Page, and seems even here to be stumbling a bit over the wiseacre dialogue she's handed. She's the girl most recently famous for starring in the Nicolas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven, and though she gets credit for shaking up her image so early into her career, it seems to be an awkward fit so far.
Bad trailers trip up good movies all the time-- remember how unpromising the bullet train sequence in The Wolverine looked, and how great it was in the The Wolverine?-- and viewers with DirecTV will have a chance to judge Paradise for themselves soon enough, so it's a little silly to toss off judgment based on two and a half minutes of hastily assembled footage. Coming off the acerbic brilliance of Young Adult, Cody seemed as smart and capable of strong storytelling as ever. Paradise may indeed have that… but this trailer does a mighty great job of hiding it.
As someone stuck with awful Time Warner Cable, I won't be able to see Paradise on Thursday. Do you have DirecTV? Come back and let us know how it is.