Gabriel Medina's feature debut, which he both wrote and directed, is a quirky, angsty comedy about twenty-somethings trying to make something of themselves without settling or giving up on the ideas and ideals that they held as teenagers. It opens with an interesting shot of a plastic ape falling from the sky and then cuts to a man named Luciano (Daniel Hendler) earns a living as a man in a costume who entertains obnoxious children with his partner, Sherman (Martin Feldman). Luciano turns out to be a bit of a paranoiac, as we see him constantly fearing he's contracted HIV from a one night stand, though he seems more focused when working on his screenplay. When he winds up accidently hurting Sherman and sending him to the hospital, he winds up hanging out with a friend of his from his younger days, Manuel (Walter Jakob). With Manuel having recently hit the big time in the television industry, it's not surprising that Luciano wants him to take a look at his screen play. Manuel isn't travelling alone, however, he's brought with him his gorgeous wife, Sofia (Jazmin Stuart), which complicates things when Manuel has to travel suddenly for business and Sofia and Luciano are left alone and begin to grow closer.
As Luciano comes to terms with the feelings that are stirring inside him for his best friend's wife, he soon realizes that the main character Manuel's hit TV show, a strange paranoid man, was not so loosely based on him and things just spiral from there.
Influenced by films like Reality Bites and to a lesser extent Heathers, Medina's film hits many of the right notes at the right time, or at least frequently enough to let us get into Luciano's head enough to understand where he's coming from. As his personality traits, both positive and negative, come to light we understand why he's latching onto Sofia the way he is and she to him. Neither is particularly socially skilled and both are more than a little awkward and so it makes sense that they'd find some common ground, particularly when Luciano uncovers what Manuel has done. While the film is padded with a few cliché scenes (we need how many shots of them in the elevator not talking to one another? And do these irrelevant conversations need to drag on as long as they do?) the character development is strong enough that it is generally both interesting and funny.
Most of the credit due here is for Daniel Hendler who is completely convincing as the depressed and withdrawn Luciano. We've all gone through phases like he has (at least those of us over thirty have) and we all know someone with his tendencies, which makes him easy enough to, if not relate to, at least appreciate. As he withdraws deeper into his own little world and then finally finds his own way to break out, it's an interesting transition and one that is both appropriate in the context of the story that Medina is telling and in the world which he's created. Jazmin Stuart is beautiful enough that we can completely understand not only why Manuel would slap a ring on her finger but also why Luciano would start to let his mind wander, but it's not just her looks that appeal to our central character, in fact it's got just as much, if not more, to do with her personality type.
The film gets a little wrapped up in its own emotions at times and comes close to pandering to audience expectations here and there, but overall this is a clever, interesting and funny movie with a few effective romantic moments and enough entertainment value to make it worth a look.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD is a very strong one. Color reproduction is excellent and black levels are strong. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts of note nor is there any heavy edge enhancement or noise reduction. Print damage is never an issue though an expected and appreciable amount of film grain is visible in spots. All in all, the movie looks very good on this DVD, which is a well authored release of some nice looking source material.
The Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is good, though there are times where the 5.1 definitely makes things a little more interesting. There's some good left to right channel separation in the stereo track and the levels are well balanced, but the 5.1 mix has more depth and range and as such is more enjoyable. There are no problems with any audible hiss or distortion to complain about while the optional English subtitles are free of any obvious typographical errors in addition to being clean, clear and easy to read.
There aren't a ton of extra features here but there is a music video included as well as the film's original theatrical trailer and some classy menus and chapter stops. The best extra is a collection of MP3s from the film's soundtrack available via DVD-Rom equipped computers. The packaging is also nice, as is typical with Oscilloscope.
The Paranoids is an interesting and entertaining film with some strong performances and some truly funny moments. The direction is strong, if a bit too stylish for its own good at times, and the characters agreeable enough. Oscilloscope has done a nice job bringing this one to DVD and anyone who appreciates quirky slice of life comedy with a few interesting twists. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.