In Wonderful Paradise, there's an acceptance that some things could go on forever — like personal happiness, just as long as there's someone else pulling the strings. Whether there are forces you can or cannot control — like a personal relationship you have with a family member — it's often said that if you want something done, you've got to do it yourself. Wonderful Paradise's title is something of a misnomer; the film comes off as downbeat in its initial moments, but over the next hour and a half, it becomes clear that maybe even the most depressing of circumstances can be the catalyst for a page in your life.
What You Don't Hear: In its setup, Wonderful Paradise unfolds like a slow-burn wacky comedy. There's unstructured mayhem which feels tongue-in-cheek with its depictions of peril and adult situations. This first half almost feels like it's hitting for dark comedy, and I feel like that is on behalf of the rather naked sound design. The film's humor is way too loud and exaggerated to be considered deadpan, which would work well with a lack of non-diegetic sound. But it's that very absence of sound that is so loud in Wonderful Paradise's first half. It almost feels as though the silence is intentional - like the void would've theoretically filled by the audience's laughter (a risky bet to make). I don't think it sets the right tone for a film like this, which otherwise looks great, is consistent and engaging. Another pass at the edit could've tightened up the pacing in this beginning, and adding in some musical themes for its rotating cast of characters might've been a good idea. This movie has a goofball sense of humor, but it almost makes itself into a film like Parasite.
Going Big:The film may start slow, but it's only deceptively slow. Wonderful Paradise is assured in its steady accumulation of outcast characters, all using a piece of this unlicensed party as a means of expressing themselves. The point of this story seems to be that while happiness is a personal journey and defined by the individual, it's also often dependent on the generosity of strangers. What this film did well was introduce mini-arcs into its overarching story — each of them has the necessary time to grow and develop. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of the film's central family, who aren't established enough in the beginning for the audience to attach to them. The result is a somewhat apathetic emotional experience — by the end, it's the carnage that has taken center stage, not so much character growth. There is enjoyment to be had when it turns into a musical or a monster flick, but it's all only cheeky fun, and that can only get you so far.
Wonderful Paradise is a film about the feeling of being in purgatory when moving on and the radical personal growth sparked by a decision to upend everything. Fortunately, this is a very optimistic film, and the overall experience is enjoyable — the second half is essentially endless payoff and escalation.