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Paradise

Directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue. Starring Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson, Sheila Mccarthy, Elijah Wood, Thora Birch.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Oct. 4, 1991

Crying for close to two hours is not my idea of a good time. Nor do I think the ability of a movie to make me cry is in any way an attribute worth extolling -- it doesn't take much. This movie is about a couple who've gone dysfunctional after the death of their three-year-old son. Yeah, dead children will make me cry. And any time there's a danger of the tear ducts drying up for a minute or two, poor old Melanie Griffith goes up to the attic to fondle her lost little boy's booties or his tiny little jacket. Into these two miserable people's lives enters Wood, the son of Griffith's best friend, sent to stay while his mother works out her own marital problems. Solemn and cute, he wins over Griffith and Johnson, her stony husband, but he's got considerably more work to do to bring them both together again. In the meantime, he makes friends with the little girl next door, Birch. Actually, the acting is uniformly good, especially the children and there are good characters here (there are some annoying ones as well. Cruel condescension went into the creation of McCarthy's role as an unjustifiably vain floozy.). Johnson starts out overplaying the gruff embittered s.o.b., but he manages to wring out a high proportion of the few laughs this movie has in it. The kids work hard at lightening up the proceedings as well, but the overall sadness is unrelenting. It is Donoghue's year, she wrote Deceived and Beaches and was given this remake of the French film Le Grand Chemin to direct. She's competent, but she shows little sense of balance. Paradise will be a hit for those who confuse suffering with art, but I resent being emotionally mugged. It's my upbringing, I know, but I especially hate it at the directorial hands of a woman named Mary Agnes. It's like being beat up by a nun.
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