When daughters are a disappointment to their mothers, there aren’t many options to get them to live up to the mother’s standards. The Duchess (Milla Jovovich) runs a retreat on a remote island. The intense therapy is designed to get the girls to live up to their potential. The results of the Duchess’ treatments are remarkable.
Uma (Emma Roberts) is one of those sent to the retreat. She has been sent by her mother to get her to tone down her behavior and accept a marriage proposal that will benefit the family. Uma is reluctant to take part in the therapy and actively rebels against it. Uma quickly befriends her roommates; Chloe (Danielle Macdonald), whose mother wants a thinner, more active daughter; and Yu (Awkwafina), whose anxiety and panic attacks embarrass her family.
Emma also meets Amarna (Eiza González). As a pop star, Amarna’s behavior is troublesome to her agent and handlers. As Emma and Amarna become closer, they realize the therapy isn’t quite what it seems. As they discover the secrets of the Duchess, it becomes a race for their lives.
Paradise Hills is a unique story that takes you on a twisting journey that will keep you guessing exactly where it will go.
While the women starring in the film are great – Emma Roberts, Daneille Macdonald, Awkwafina, and Eiza González all do an excellent job – it is the costuming and set design that really shine in this film. The costumes are exquisitely crafted and well designed. They are subtly futuristic yet almost Victorian at the same time. The sets are equally impressive. The retreat is set on a beautiful island populated with buildings that are both high tech and primitive. The juxtaposition of the styles and time periods in both make for a film that is very visually appealing.
Written by Nacho Vigalonda and Brian DeLeeuw, the story isn’t a rehash of an over-told story and it doesn’t rely on many of the common tropes used in suspense/dystopian-future movies. The suspense builds up until you get to the point that you’ll find yourself yelling at Uma and her friends as they discover the truths of the island. It is a well written and directed film.
Then we get to the climax of the film. Up until this point, everything was going just fine. Then there is a scene in a cave. I won’t spoil who is involved or what happens, but it is an unnecessary scene that really takes you out of the world they have been creating. Likewise, everything that happens after this scene is just as good. If they had skipped this scene altogether and found another way to get to the same result, It could have gone from a good movie to an excellent movie.
Save for one unfortunate misstep, Paradise Hills is a thrilling movie that will keep you on your toes throughout the film. I can’t say enough about the production design on the movie. It is simply amazing. It is available On Demand a week after it opens in the theater. I would wait to watch it at home.