Dr. Ken Jeong screaming over and over “I am somebody! I am somebody!” as he is floating atop a mosh pit of security guards who are about to 86 him from the Downtown LA Standard Hotel is a highlight in Fool’s Paradise. Sadly, the highlights are few and far between. There were other stand out moments, like the scenes with Adrian Brody, especially drunk driving at night and shooting out the La La Land streetlight from his supped up Mustang on Mulholland Drive. And every time he said, “I’m coming for you!” right before a scene in the movie within a movie, Billy the Kid, was about to start. And there were a few fun moments with the inimitable Drew Droege who I had the good fortune of working with when I was the Cinematographer on the Ringo Le’s feature, Big Gay Love. Drew lit up the screen in Fool’s Paradise. He’s a natural in front of the camera.
To look at Fool’s Paradise on paper, from the talent-side alone, you’d think there is no way this will miss. But you’d think wrong. At the heart of the film is a parable in the vein of Charlie Chaplin. The protagonist doesn’t speak, wears a bowler, walks and runs with the same gait as the master. However, a cursory glance at the works of Chaplin like Modern Times, The Great Dictator, City Lights and The Kid reveal a character who was active in the world. He wanted things. He wanted to be gainfully employed. He wanted to be in love …and would fall in love. Even watching the last scene of City Lights simply puts Fool’s Paradise to shame. There is so much power in movie making that this film never explores and has left on the table. It only somewhat hints at the magic of cinema once. A shot where a lamp in Echo Park, a movie location since 1910, starts to flutter. Instead we have a protagonist who is blank slate. A mirror to the insanity around him. But he’s helpless. What he wants most is to sleep on a park bench. And we want him to. We don’t want him to succeed in Hollywood. We just want him to be left alone.
It was disconcerting to me how bad this film unraveled. It doesn’t help to overanalyze it. As D said, the jokes were flat.
It’s a comedy that wasn’t funny.