Paradise Cove Review: A View to Kill For
The Thriller genre loves a good home invasion narrative and relishes in the character of the ‘crazy and deadly woman’, with films like Pacific Heights, Fatal Attraction and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle all setting out the tropes during their heyday. Martin Guigui’s new Thriller Paradise Cove clearly understands these expectations and has some fun playing with them, even if it doesn’t necessarily subvert any of them.
Knox Bannett (Todd Grinnell) and his wife Tracey (Mena Suvari) have inherited a beachfront Malibu house from his mother who unfortunately died in a fire on the property. They plan to renovate and flip it for, what Knox hopes, is about six million dollars. It’s a beautiful neighbourhood and the opening lavishes in tracking shots of what is essentially real estate porn, before arriving at the caution tape covered fixer upper that is his mum’s house. This quiet start allows for some exploration of the couple as they sift through memories and indicate their struggles to get pregnant, which adds another layer to their plight and sets them up as good and sympathetic people.
Unfortunately, that view of them soon warps as we’re introduced to an unexpected problem that stands in the way of their plans. The problem’s name is Bree (Kristen Bauer van Straten) a homeless woman who has set herself up underneath their deck and has zero intention of leaving. Even the police are no help, advising the couple to put up no trespassing signs and hope for the best, causing Sheriff Garcia (Ruben Garfias) to become a bit of a chocolate fireguard with a badge. Yet, it feels his lack of help towards the couple goes deeper than ineptitude, the whole city seems to be aware of Bree and almost protective of her, even when she begins to terrorise the new owners both psychologically and physically.
As mentioned previously Paradise Cove is aware of its predecessors and therefore can feel formulaic at points, with the escalations mapped out for the aware viewer and the plot having a few too many holes. There’s actually a lot going on under the surface that I would have loved to have seen explored more, from Knox’s backstory and less than perfect upbringing, to the treatment of the homeless community, there was a lot more than could have been mined from this. I found myself quickly moving my allegiance from the ‘happy couple’ who began to seem more and more like products of privilege, over to the bohemian villain of the piece who was much more engaging.
Maybe this was intended, maybe it wasn’t, but my allegiance was definitely driven by Kristen Bauer van Straten’s incredible performance. Bree is played to be somewhere between a poet and a psychopath, a scene chewer who can turn on a dime from sexualised outrageous femme fatale to a sympathetic and tragic victim of circumstance and misfortune. She definitely owns every scene she is in and commits to every philosophical line of writer Sherry Klein’s dialogue with unhinged beauty.
As the confrontations increase and we head towards the climax of the film the lines between who we sympathise with and who is wrong blur even more. Suvari and Grinnell do a good job of following the twists and turns of their character, but still feel a little lacking in development and connection. They are a couple driven to the edge by their obsessive want for things that are just out of their reach. A baby, a perfect two bed house and an honest life. It culminates in a slightly predictable ending, one that does manage to bring some tension and violence, but ultimately lacks one final shock. It drops a few notes, but the performances, stunning cinematography showcasing the ‘paradise’ of Malibu and slow build tension are executed well enough to make it worth the watch.
Paradise Cove premiered on digital Feb 12 from Quiver Distribution.