PARADISE COVE tells the story of a handsome young follows a husband and wife Knox and Tracey Bannett (Todd Grinnell and Mena Suvari, respectively) in the throes of renovating a stunning beachfront property, after it has been damaged by fire. However, their home improvement becomes severely derailed by a squatter named Bree (Kristin Bauer van Straten), who will stop at nothing to drive the young couple from their abode.
What transpires is essentially a by-the-numbers-thriller, which does seem reminiscent of ‘UNLAWFUL ENTRY’ yet struggles to retain the same intensity as that early 90s offering. Sherry’s Klein’s lackluster script relies on the safety of being formulaic, and therefore lacks any weighty punch. The dialogue was passable, though the characters perhaps too melodramatic thus unsuccessfully forcing audience sympathy. Furthermore, the couple’s fertility was an unfocussed subplot that may have been an attempt at some sort of social commentary – however, this is yet another questionable inclusion, especially when the development of Suvari and Grinnell seems largely ignored.
Paradise Cove is lacks the foreboding dread of something more sophisticated like ‘THE STRANGERS’s, with its sunny presentation being the only clear distinction. To its credit, it is mindful of what it is and not what it should be. At its core, Paradise Cove presents the idealized notion of how privileged wealth may present more problems than benefits; in this case it is taken to the extreme with said squatter who asserts her entitlement with aggression.
Prima Facie, the strength of this movie is indeed within its primary cast, specifically the likeable Todd Grinnell and Mena Suvari, and yet the inclusion of the latter American Pie alum is minimized in favour of Bauer van Stratten’s unhinged villain. Her level of lunacy may seem overtly comical, given that the neighbourhood appears to support her efforts despite the mounting evidence of her wrong doing. Suvari has proven herself to be a capable, versatile actress having somewhat graduated (pun intended) beyond the collegiate humour of ‘AMERICAN PIE’ and showing depth in Amy Heckerling’s ‘LOSER’ alongside Jason Biggs. It is therefore a shame that Suvari’s characterization is largely one dimensional. By contrast, Todd Grinnell’s career has primarily been relegated to TV, starring in everything from ‘DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES’ to ‘REVENGE’, and though he does a commendable job as a protective husband in Paradise Cove, there is nothing memorable about him.
Although, the couple do indeed look great, there were moments where their interactions lacked any real chemistry and they were merely victims pushed to their limit. The gorgeous Krista Allen also makes an appearance as a supporting character, whom many readers may recognize as the attractive Woman in the Elevator, that Jim Carrey insults in ‘LIAR, LIAR.’
Ironically the impact of the movie was not so much in this work of fiction, but instead prompting a reminder of the case of Kathy Rowe, who orchestrated a harassment campaign against Jerry Rice and Janice Ruhter – who had purchased her old home in San Diego’s Carmel Valley in 2011. Like Bree, the real life antagonist in Rowe seemed unrepentant excusing her behavior due to stress and insomnia. Similarly, Bree cannot comprehend the dire circumstances she creates for her victims, blinded by her own entitled idealism. As a result, Paradise Cove doesn’t shy away from being categorized as a derivative work, which is far less scary than such an aforementioned case.
The overt investment in the Bree’s villain comes at the expense of the two protagonists, thereby compromising a satisfying conclusion. This unbalanced character focus prevents the audience from establishing any clear nexus with the couple, and apart from some well-timed jump scares, the expectations are governed by a well-worn formula. With the real star of the movie, being the villain the leads narrative sinks into mediocrity, where only the scenery itself provides more visual delight than the otherwise capable Grinnell and Suvari. Bauer van Stratten (‘TRUE BLOOD’) certainly cannot hold a candle to Glenn Close in ‘FATAL ATTRACTION’, but does channel enough insanity to make her entitled obsession more palpable. She was over-the-top crazy, and at certain junctures of her ramblings her performance were comparable to that of the Vas in Far Cry 3, arguable one of the most well written villains in video games. However, this may be more of an overt criticism than it is a compliment, given that there is a clear distinction between the medium of video games and films. The inability to interact as a movie protagonist, means that audience engagement needs to occur through the story as much as character performances. This is where Paradise Cove misses the mark. Humanising the villain more than the victimized protagonists creates an unbalanced dichotomy.
The Director Martin Guigui’s is a Grammy nominated music producer, and much of these notes are seemingly evident in how Paradise Cove is composed. Like a music video, the cast is attractive, much like the scenery but neither is enough to compel an audience to endure the entirety of a full feature film. Ultimately, its over reliance upon formulaic tropes, means that Paradise Cove only becomes incidental or coincidental afterthought, and not mandatory movie pursuit.