Review: 3 DOORS FROM PARADISE
Warning: this article includes spoilers.
3 Doors From Paradise was directed by Joe Lobianco.
For so long disabled people have been under-represented in cinema, so when a film comes along that does the disable community justice, it’s refreshing.
3 Doors from Paradise follows Brandon, a man with severe learning difficulties, as he is moved out of a group home into a flat where he must fend for himself. Brandon has to learn how to live alone and interact with other people on a daily basis — something we all take for granted.
Robert Aloi portrays Brandon fantastically, and I really love the attention to detail that he brings to the role. The physical attributes to Brandon’s character support Medhurst’s positive view that media shorthand’s help identify different types of people. We learn very quickly without having it ‘spoon-fed’ to us that Brandon cannot look after himself during the meeting in Stephanie Morton’s office. It is also interesting to note we never get a specific diagnosis for Brandon’s condition, nor does anyone ask for one during the film. I really like how to shows how unimportant the condition is to the people around him.
I really love Brandon’s character development. For most of the film he is helpless and doesn’t seem to understand the world around him; however he tackles Argo to the ground when he threatens Brandon’s friends, the first physical interaction he has with anyone in the film. Tammy-Lynn (Erica Boozer) is the fantastic girl next door who is plagued by her misogynistic, murdering boyfriend (Argo). I love the importance of her character, a mother figure to both Rose and Brandon who is powerless to help herself. Tammy-Lynn saves Brandon by being there and looking after him and he in turn saves her from her gun-wielding boyfriend.
I only have one problem with Tammy-Lynn relating her her hobbies: she claims to love cooking and wanted to cook Brandon dinner, but she microwaved him a pot of mac and cheese. I was confused, why didn’t she make him something from scratch? Is she too poor to afford food because she feeds Rose most days? Or did she want to spend as little time as possible in her apartment?
I never found out the answer.
Argo (John Anantua) is one of those characters you just hate, but sadly, for the wrong reasons. I found him really difficult to follow — for example, his voice and mannerism’s didn’t change when he threatened Tammy-Lynn. I wanted so much more from him as a villain. I wanted his acting to bring fear, like Martin (Patrick Bergin) in Sleeping With the Enemy (1991). I wanted to fear him for myself, but not because Tammy-Lynn being scared of him made me fear him. When he shot everyone in the hallway, I expected a Tarantino-esque maniacal killer, but I was disappointed. The murder of Rose’s mum, Lola (Stacy Kessler), should have been the most exciting point in the film, but it was the most excruciating. Only Rose seemed affected by being a witness to murder. Although Lola deserved what she got, I felt we hadn’t explored enough into her character or relationship with Rose for me to care about this moment.
In my notes I wrote, underlined multiple times, and circled the phrase “Stephanie Morton’s hair”. I was so confused when it changed the second time she was on screen — I was convinced someone else had taken at the group home. But I really liked the attention to detail with her charcter which really added to the story, and am glad the film was shot in more than one location. I really liked the park being a safe area for Tammy-Lynn, Rose and Brandon and how light and warm it was. The corridor outside their flat also matched their emotions from their living situations, same with the group home. The extra dimensions of space helped explore the different relationships throughout the film as well as bring up different problems for Brandon. I struggled to watch the opening of the film as the audio is so quiet and the camera too close for comfort. I appreciate the exploration of circular narratives but I don’t feel the film benefited from it at all. Choosing to hide who was in the car needlessly confused the opening scene.
It made more sense when we revisited it at the end but I don’t think the extra brain work required added to understanding the narrative.
There was also an obvious choice to cut to black between scenes or linger on an action for slightly too long. Interesting as it was to see this pan out alongside the themes in the film, I felt it didn’t quite work. Cuts to black tend to take you out of the action and back to reality — it’s where you check your phone and reply to a few messages — attention lost. It made sense in some places, such as after the murder of Lola, to take you down to the aftermath and recovery of the scene. Focusing on the group walking away from the shop at the end reminded me a bit of The Breakfast Club (1985) but without the empowering music and iconic fist bump still.
The audio quality was something I struggled with throughout the film, as well — where was the overly dramatic music during tense scenes? The ending should have been empowering to match Brandon’s success, the murder scene needed more foley to make it more dramatic. The scenes shot outside also had a lot of noise in the background which distracted from the action. This sometimes worked with Brandon in the scene to show how he felt, constantly drowning in noise. The jackhammer outside was really interesting but it grated on my nerves for a few seconds too long, I was as relieved as he was when he put the ear protectors on! It did bug me that the noise seemed to just stop when Stephanie came in.
Although I struggled with some of the technical aspects of the film during my viewing, I really got behind the story and some of the stronger characters. It was different enough to be interesting and similar enough to themes in family favourites like Rainman (1988) and Forrest Gump (1994) for viewers to not be frustrated with the portrayal of disability.