I like Gus Van Sant. I was probably one of the only people in the world who really liked Gerry, his two-handed film with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck in 2003. And I loved his film Elephant, which a meditative and fascinating riff on the Columbine High School killings.
Van Sant has been working in the same style as those films for a while now (on and off, of course), but I liked his Kurt Cobain movie Last Days considerably less than those earlier two movies.
This year's Paranoid Park is another meditative, quiet film, this time about a murder and a skateboarding teenager. It's a character study, but...
well I didn't really like it all that much. I mean, I guess I liked it. I love the style. I am glad Van Sant is still working like this. I particularly love the photography and I dig his unconventional use of music, too. But this movie doesn't really have much to go on in terms of content. The plot just isn't that interesting. Paranoid Park is also hampered by uneven acting. By which I mean that some of the supporting players, simply put, are bad. There is a young lady named Lauren McKinney, in particular (Paranoid Park is her first movie) who is terrible. Whenever she is onscreen she pulled me out of the narrative and away from my emotional involvement with the fascinating lead actor (Gabe Nevins, also in his first movie).
The use of non-actors in films occasionally pays off, but I find sometimes that these performers are too conscious of their own performances to be believable onscreen. Quite a few of the actors in Paranoid Park (McKinney is not the only one) did this to me, and so I just couldn't quite buy into this film the way I fell for Elephant and Gerry. Van Sant is still doing good work, but I wish he would use a more experienced talent-pool.