By Don Simpson | January 25, 2012
Director: Justin D. Hilliard
Writers: Justin D. Hilliard, Arianne Martin, Ryan Hartsell
Starring: Arianne Martin, John Elliott, Frank Mosley, Jodie Moore, Susana Gibb, Drew Waters
From the moment that Rose (Arianne Martin) picks up Alex (John Elliott) from the airport, Justin D. Hilliard’s The Other Side of Paradise begins to boil with sexual tension. Even though Rose and Alex are “just friends,” it is abundantly clear that the only reason they have not hooked up is because destiny has never permitted that to happen. It seems that Rose and Alex have never been single at the same time, that is until now…
Transitioning from longtime friends to lovers is not always that simple — and considering all of the obstacles that are thrown at Rose and Alex, the chances of them coming out of this film as a romantic couple are pretty much slim to none. But, I am getting ahead of myself…
Rose and Alex embark upon a road trip across Texas to attend a gallery opening in Austin featuring Rose’s photographs. Coincidentally, Rose’s brother Jamie (Frank Mosley) has just been released from prison, so they pick him up along the way. Their next stop is to visit their father (Jodie Moore) and finally meet their new stepmother (Susana Gibb). By happenstance, Rose and Jamie discover the whereabouts of their absentee birth mother and that propels the trio to slightly alter their course in order to meet her.
Their journey to Austin is certainly not an easy one, as The Other Side of Paradise takes off on rollercoaster ride of absurd wackiness and brutal realism. It seems as though every high is quickly followed by a tremendous downer — sometimes it feels as though the narrative purposefully pumps us up only to tear us back down again. Despite the contrived emotional nature of the script, most of the scenes are performed with such realistic bravado that any manipulative tricks are quickly forgiven. (More about the acting in a bit…) And I must give credit to Hilliard for not being afraid to go to some very dark places, in someone else’s hands The Other Side of Paradise might have been too quirky and sweet for me to swallow.
If I have any issues with The Other Side of Paradise it is with the pacing and structure of the narrative. I feel like some sequences are too quick and the transitions between certain scenes too jerky. I also tend to get annoyed by an over-reliance on fading to black between scenes, and there seem to be a lot of fades to black during The Other Side of Paradise.
The real strength of The Other Side of Paradise is in the performances of the three lead actors. Arianne Martin and John Elliott truly own their characters, so much so that it is difficult to not believe that they are just playing slight variations on their real personalities. Frank Mosley’s portrayal of Jamie, however, is quite the opposite. Mosley, who is clearly playing a character, utilizes an expressionless facade and deadpan dialogue to induce simultaneous states of humor, menace, intrigue and sexual bravado.
The Other Side of Paradise is available on DVD and digital download from the The Other Side of Paradise website.