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Paradise Found
IMDB Rating: 5.8/10 from 478 votes
Release: 27 March 2003 (Australia) /

Paradise Found

Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Mario Andreacchio,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Paris, 1880. Paul Gauguin is a successful financier. He lives in Paris with his wife Mette and their four children. But when his passion for painting becomes a mission to revolutionize art, Gauguin must unleash the savage within himself. To do so he gives up his job and comfortable lifestyle, leading his family into a downward spiral of poverty and travels to Tahiti. His voyages take him even further from his beloved family and teach him the true meaning of the word sacrifice. What price must he pay in order to pursue his dream? Written by Aline

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Critic Reviews

But let's face it, only two very select demographic groups were likely to be interested in the first place – firstly, Gauguin enthusiasts and, secondly, insomniacs like me who'll still be awake to catch this kind of obscure, unknown of picture when satellite/cable TV airs it in the early hours.

I don't know much about the real life Paul Gauguin, so I can't really judge for myself how historically accurate this thing is, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's taken a few liberties along the way – I mean, what historical movie hasn't? (You ought to skim through a couple of films about the English Civil War to see what they've done to the real-life Oliver Cromwell). But regardless, at heart 'Paradise Found' is a weak film striving to be stronger all the while, and in some ways that is something to be admired. It definitely does have things on its mind, and a message all there and waiting to be revealed - it's just not sure exactly how it wants to say it, and that's the movie's major stumbling block defined. Some pretty interesting issues and talking points are skimmed upon but go understated - generally, this is about religious and cultural tolerance and the importance of staying true to your personal dreams, but the screenplay doesn't have enough confidence to speak out loud enough on either topic. Added to which, so little weight is given to Gauguin's own personal philosophical musings on these issues throughout that when they finally come they feel like more of a tacked on afterthought, and never allow for any truly pensive impact. There are also too many flat supporting characters who could've done with a bit more polish and substance in order to give it more contextual support.

Nonetheless, there were enough aspects of 'Paradise Found' I liked to make it well-worth the viewing – namely, Kiefer Sutherland. His performance as Gauguin is really something – a strong lead can do wonders for even the most sheepish of movies – and I'm glad to see that people here have at least been giving him credit for it. We follow Gauguin as he quits his job in Paris as a stockbroker and tries to make it as an artist, soon learning that there are no easy roads to instant success. So he decides to got to Tahiti for his inspiration – actually, due to the non-linear structure of the film, we know this by the very opening scene. Two stories, one of the past (Gauguin's life in Paris), one of the present (his life in Tahiti), are neatly interwoven and told almost simultaneously. Personally I'm not going to criticize 'Paradise Found' in this respect – as far as I'm concerned it was one of the screenplay's biggest merits. For all it was worth, it managed to 'shake up' the story somewhat and latch onto my curiosity, and as soon as I'd sussed out the formation of the film I was genuinely curious to know more – if anything, just how this wealthy family man could have ended up in such a position, as well as where he'd go from there. This is open to dispute, but I seriously doubt that this same narrative would've worked any better in the conventional format.

Nobody is going to argue with the aesthetic qualities of this film – visually speaking, it's a real blessing, capturing the natural splendor of those colourful tropics to the core. And it isn't entirely lacking in human emotion. Gauguin's ever-increasing conflict with his worldly wife doesn't quite manage to stir up any deep feelings within, which is a shame because it's treated as pretty much the central focus, though his relationship with his youngest daughter is a lot more involving, and provides the movie with a few genuinely emotive moments that could surprise you.

All in all, 'Paradise Found' is too slow-moving and unsure of itself to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's still a perfectly light and refreshing enough experience for anyone willing to look past those problems. And while it may not go down as an instant classic amongst fans of Kiefer Sutherland, following the cool but cold mechanics of his usual action thriller routines like '24' and 'Phone Booth', I appreciate his gumption for trying something different. After all, it's ideal as a movie for the early hours - worth watching if you're still awake for it, but perhaps not quite so getting up for.

Grade: C+

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