Starring: Todd Grinnell, Mena Suvari, and Kristin Bauer van Straten
Written By: Sherry Klein
Directed By: Martin Guigui
If you’ve seen the trailer for Paradise Cove you probably got the impression that it’s a formulaic affair that’s part home invasion tale and part psychological thriller in the vein of Fatal Attraction. And you would be fairly accurate in that assessment. Director Martin Guigui’s (The Unhealer) latest filmic offering is not a standout effort that breaks the rules or subverts expectations. That’s not to say that the film is a total waste. But it probably won’t win any awards for originality.
Paradise Cove follows a husband and wife (Todd Grinnell and Mena Suvari) setting out to renovate a beachfront home that has been badly damaged by a fire. Complicating their plans is Bree (Kristin Bauer van Straten) a troubled woman who used to call the dwelling her home and is currently squatting on the premises. The pair quickly discovers that Bree’s fixation with her former domicile has the potential to turn deadly.
As you may have been able to gather from the plot crunch, the script (by Sherry Klein) is a bit formulaic and leans a little too much into melodrama. Martin Guigui does offer viewers a couple of fairly well-timed jump scares but there aren’t enough legitimately frightening moments to keep the average viewer engaged throughout.
One of the biggest issues I had with the film is that time which could have been spent fleshing out the backstory of our protagonists is instead invested in a subplot about the young couple desperately trying to conceive. While this subplot eventually bears fruit, the impact is relatively minor considering the sheer amount of time spent developing it. Paradise Cove would have been better served by minimizing its focus on the horrors of infertility and maximizing the character development of its protagonists. As it stands, I spent most of my time rooting for the villain (van Straten) who was the only character that I felt any sort of connection with.
Kristin Bauer van Straten’s Bree may not have a place to live but she’s never at a loss for words or lacking the ability to make everyone around her uncomfortable. Van Straten relished in her (somewhat) villainous role as a vampire on True Blood and she shines again here. Her understanding of timing and ability to convey everything we need to know with little more than an icy stare makes her far more effective than she ought to be in an otherwise subpar film. She is a commanding presence and gives viewers a reason to keep watching Paradise Cove.
Bauer has no disillusions about the type of flick she’s in. She seems to clearly understand that this is a pulpy, popcorn feature and she runs with it. Her performance is balls-to-the-wall and over-the-top. She’s a scenery-chewing villain but there’s also a soft side to Bree that drew me to her. She’s not a one note baddie. Van Straten brings a humanity and a depth to Bree that we rarely see in movies of this caliber.
While I am a fan of Bauer and her performance in Paradise Cove, I was a bit underwhelmed with Mena Suvari (Day of the Dead) and Todd Grinnell (TV’s Revenge). Both are relatively two-dimensional in their portrayal of the young couple renovating their beachfront property. Their relationship doesn’t feel particularly authentic. And there is virtually no chemistry between the two of them. The lack of authenticity makes their union a bit rough to invest in as a viewer.
Also complicating things is a finale that feels a bit anticlimactic. We see characters that we haven’t been given much reason to root for going up against a villain who is more sympathetic than they are. And the outcome feels a little disappointing—almost like a hollow victory.
Is Paradise Cove worth seeing? Maybe. I would suggest waiting for it to hit streaming services and check it out for free. Even though van Straten is a master of her craft, that isn’t quite enough to save the film from its shortcomings.
Paradise Cove hits digital platforms February 12th.
Paradise Cove isn’t going to win any awards for originality but Kristin Bauer van Straten’s performance makes the feature more enjoyable.