Growing up on classic rock, I’m naturally a fan of Neil Young, and as such hearing he was starring in Paradox which was premiering at SXSW this year meant I had to see it. Especially with Daryl Hannah directing it as her directorial debut. What could go wrong with this interesting mixture, right? Right? Well, I’m just going to get into the review now.
So what exactly is the plot of Paradox, you might ask. Well…that’s a good question. SXSW was very keen to call it a “Narrative Feature”, but I’m barely sure that there were even actual characters. The official description of the film is “A group of outlaws search for a mountain treasure and experience the supernatural powers of a full moon.”, so we’ll go with that. But honestly, there isn’t any real story here. Its really just a collection of “characters” portrayed by Neil Young and his band, having non-sequitur discussions that never seem to go anywhere. Young himself kinda plays a main character, who is just himself as an old man people are scared of, and then he robs these banks for seeds? Seriously, that is the most I can explain things or characters in this movie without just repeating that they do nothing.
Honestly, I don’t know how this got into the Narrative Feature listing at SXSW. I barely know how it got into SXSW really, and I kinda know its only because of its celebrity creators. But its shot so poorly that I honestly feel its demeaning to the other films presented, and especially those not featured. Hannah clearly should’ve stuck to acting because this is shot like a freshman college student trying to show he’s creative. There’s times it goes from crisp images to what looks like an old 8mm film reel, with no real reason. There is also the fact that she clearly didn’t write any characters and gave her group of actors, who aren’t actors, super loose instruction then shot. Quite literally it feels like they all got high and then she said “Ok, talk about life but with it being kind of future like”. In fact, I kind of know that’s the case because in the Q&A afterwards Hannah said that basically Young and his band were adapting to the altitude where they were about to perform, and she said she wanted to make a movie in the downtime.
Honestly, the only redeeming parts of this film is that for a bit it turns first into a Neil Young music video, and then a concert film. So yes, they do let Neil Young and his band perform for a bit, and its really great when they do. I mean, he’s Neil frickin’ Young! He still is a fantastic musician and singer and for a few minutes you can almost kinda forgive the movie. But then it decides to loop it back to the stupid non-narrative that it started with, and then doubles down. It just seriously isn’t worth it.
This is one of those cases where its clear it was only made because Neil Young is dating Daryl Hannah. We’ve all done dumb things because our significant other thought it would be fun and really wanted to do it. But that doesn’t mean we should show the world that stuff, nor should a generally trusted and acclaimed festival endorse it. I am honestly far more mad at SXSW for showing this because out of the dozen or so films and shows I saw there none were out right terrible like this was. This is also now released on Netflix, and I just don’t get it. But this was a waste of an hour at a festival where there is so much good stuff to see, and that just makes me sad even now a few months later.