The Surprisingly Watchable Adventures of an Oversensitive Twentysomething

01/20/2010 4:15 AM |

The Paranoids

Directed by Gabriel Medina

As tedious as it normally is to watch overprivileged twentysomethings stuck in a creative rut find their way out by finding romance (on film, that is; in real life, voyeurism totally rules), there’s somehow always room for one more film to defy that tried-and-true expectation. The Paranoids, co-writer/director Gabriel Medina’s portrait of a wiry, mullet-sporting angry young Argentinean with an autistic artistic temperament, is both lively and brooding, alternating between taking its protagonist’s all-too-relatable perfectionist, antisocial tendencies deathly seriously, and taking the piss out of them (as in a dream sequence that liberally paraphrases Taoist philosophy, and one of the most dramatic video game boxing matches on film). Medina is sincere about recreating his protagonist’s worldview, but he also has the proper distance to recognize that it’s the stuff of bittersweet comedy.

It should come as no surprise that The Paranoids is in part based on Medina’s own youth. Luciano Gauna (an excellent Daniel Hendler), a budding screenwriter unable to finish a script he’s been working on for years, is a control freak. It’s how he struggles to cope with knowing that his best friend Manuel (Walter Jakob) has already made a big splash with his own TV show-cum-overnight franchise while he’s stuck dressing up as a big purple monster suit for children’s parties (Barney he ain’t). And he has a thing for Manuel’s girlfriend Sofia (Jazmin Stuart). And he can’t dance (he’s got this windmill thing going with his right arm but it could be he’s just used too much Tiger Balm).

Thankfully, The Paranoids, a film about a character constantly striving to maintain emotional equilibrium in his mopey little life, is so good at walking its protagonist’s volatile tight rope. Hendler has a hungry look in his eyes that sustains many of his character’s repressed, passive-aggressive confrontations, which always boil down to a stare and a pout anyway. Medina knows just how hard it is for Luciano to experience life outside of his terms and perfectly mimics that impulse in his meticulous pacing and camera blocking. The aforementioned video game battle is one of the funniest contemporary expressions of the phallocentric contest that is the love triangle, the romantic comedy’s standby representation of sexual tension. It’s surprisingly tense, more than a little silly, and filmed with a Fincheresque OCD precision—everything a comedy about a twenty-something’s bruised ego should have in a nutshell.

Opens January 22