Okay, here is the funny part about me watching this movie. I often build up a stock pile of movies I think I want to see and randomly pick one that looks good. I grabbed this one because it was about a girl tracking down a movie star she has a crush on. That sounded like a comedy and sounded like good fun to me. I wanted something I could watch, have a good laugh and the least of which ... write a review about. Boy, did I get that one wrong. I haven't been so wrong since I popped in "The Apartment" to watch, years ago, because I was a bit down and it said it was a comedy.
So here is how I was wrong: I find movies dealing with the death of a parent to be very difficult to watch. I have my own experiences there and that makes the subject matter painful. At the same time, much like a train wreck, I can't force myself to turn away. I have some strange desire to want to know how this person handled it, what this person was feeling, when did it get better, etc.
Given all the above, "Search For Paradise" is a blessedly short movie at just under 90 minutes. It stars Susan May Pratt as Gilda Mattei and Chris Noth as Michael De Santis. I should insert a caveat that this is an independent film and not terribly good as far as an example of cinematic glory. That is okay with me, though, I don't think every movie I watch needs to be a masterpiece. If you do, you might as well stop reading this now. :-)
Gilda is an 18 year-old girl who watched her father die from some kind of an unspecified illness and afterwards, discovers that he had a secret long-term affair with an Italian woman. She has difficulty coming to grips with this information and misdirects a lot of hostility during her grief at her mother. At the same time, she runs away from the situation by going to visit her grandparents. There, yet again, she discovers that her beloved grandfather also had his own extra-curricular activities, shall we say? Again, more misdirected hostility at a boy she meets. Yet again, she runs away from the situation - this time to Virgina.
Throughout the entire setup of the film, she has a crush on Michael, whom she has never met and who just happens to be a mega-movie star. Of course, that is why she runs to Virginia. The movie star she has dreamed about for so long is filming a movie in Virginia and through a clever rouse, she has landed an interview with him. (How come I never thought of that? I want my own clever rouse.)
The whole point of this movie is how one deals with grief. In the case of Gilda, she slips into a fantasy world where even she has trouble distinguishing it from reality at times. Let's face it, she is really, really messed up. She attempts to escape from her pain by running to the fantasy of whom she thinks is her ideal man - Michael the movie star. Somehow, I think she believes Michael can replace that void in her life, left by the death of her father.
In addition to escapism, one must toss in a huge heapin' dose of fantasy here too. I can't really say that I totally understand her obsession with her father's mistress. She obsesses about her and even somewhat becomes her to land the interview. I would guess this has a lot to do with her young age - she plays a part so as to be bold enough to flaunt her sexuality that she isn't quite comfortable enough to do as "herself" yet.
Susan May Pratt is wonderful in this movie as Gilda. She is a relatively unknown actress. I think I have only seen her in one other movie ("10 Things I Hate About You") and it was a small role. In this movie though, she shines. Her face is so expressive and she is able to play someone who is so deep in grief, but fighting it every step of the way. She looks so young and so vulnerable, which is perfect for the role. She does an amazing job.
On a personal note, I have to admit I could really identify with Gilda in the running away and trying to escape the grief process. I did the exact same thing after my father died. It didn't work well for me either. As I told a dear friend recently "That grief witch is going to get her pound of flesh from you, one way or another." It probably comes as no surprise that this very messed up girl who has gone through a difficult and messed up time does come crashing back into reality and has to deal with it eventually.
So, if you are up for a short movie either about dealing with grief or about fulfilling the fantasy of meeting your movie star crush (or both, how strange is that?) this is definitely worth your time. Even if for Susan May Pratt's performance alone.