Fool’s Paradise Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck publicist discovers a recently released mental health patient who looks just like a misbehaving movie star. The publicist subs him into a film, creating a new star. But fame and fortune are not all they are cracked up to be.
Plucked from the street and groomed for superstardom, voiceless nomad Latte Pronto becomes a cog in the pop culture machine in Fool’s Paradise.
Crafting a colorful comedy jam-packed with oddball characters is an ideal way for Charlie Day to make his writing/directorial debut. Day, a beloved character actor of Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame, remains one of the industry’s most beloved humorists. He possesses a knack for elevating material, deploying vibrant energy and unrelenting dedication with every role he touches. Just the past few years alone, Day radiated joy onscreen by delivering scene-stealing performances in The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The LEGO Movie.
Fool’s Paradise arrives as a fascinating blend of sensibilities, infusing the energy of old-school filmmaking influences, like Hal Ashby and Robert Altman, within Day’s distinctive brand of offbeat comedy. These elements form a harmonious marriage in a sharp-witted yet somewhat inconsistent Hollywood satire.
I give Day credit for taking an ambitious swing for his first feature-length effort behind the camera. He is certainly not the first to attempt a critical deconstruction of Hollywood culture, following in the footsteps of several acclaimed features that highlight the dysfunction fueling the media artifacts we know and love (Damian Chazelle’s Babylon is the most recent example). But, to Day’s credit, he skillfully crafts Fool’s Paradise by developing his own expressive niche.
Day consistently plays the material as a farce. Latte Pronto, a name given due to an executive calling for a “latte, pronto,” wanders onscreen as a mute cipher for the movie star experience. He receives instant adulation when making his big-screen debut, instantly showered by glowing praise from peers, audiences, and executives looking to profit from his success. Then, just as soon as he reaches the top of the mountain, a harsh backlash of tabloid-fodder headlines and bad-faith movie projects torpedo him toward rock bottom.
This phenomenon is certainly nothing new in the industry – a fact that Day seems well aware of. His screenplay centers itself on the inherent buffoonery of this age-old crucible, utilizing a bevy of dim-witted supporting characters and obtuse moments to relay the bad-faith influences that discard a talent just as soon as they are scavenged from the scrap heap.
I can see the material not connecting with everyone; it certainly endures a fair share of scattershot vignettes that don’t land their intended impact. Like Latte himself, the film stumbles at times from its aimlessness, never truly building its Hollywood thesis past a rudimentary point of understanding on the subject. Certain elements, such as reflections on media intersecting with politics, don’t receive enough thought to carve a meaningful purpose in the film.
However, Fool’s Paradise is a trademark example of appreciating how a story is told rather than fixating on what that arc is. Day’s playful mixture of observant gags and slapstick pratfalls land several uproarious laughs, often maximizing the creative potential of a film entrenched in garish and artificial Hollywood culture. For instance, the decision to convey Latte as a mute is a clever method for depicting how self-obsessed celebrities narcissistically view the people around them as mirrors for their personal projections. Day manifests this and his array of other gags with remarkable precision behind the camera, weaving together screwball and modern comedic inspirations with the poise of a stalwart veteran director.
Day is also wise to lean on the talents of his all-star cast. A who’s who of Hollywood talents lends a hand in creating an eccentric roster of industry caricatures. There are too many great talents to list everyone out, although Adrian Brody as a dim-witted actor, Common in the role of a once-famed figure, and Kate Beckinsale as a media-hungry mogul all leave a lasting comedic impression. Amidst the array of celebrity cameos, Day and Ken Jeong form the film’s ever-beating heart. Day’s Chapelin-esque performance commands the screen through his physical dynamism, while Jeong compels as a shrill publicist overcompensating for his waning career prospects. Together, the duo forms an earnest pair as industry outcasts banding together against an uproar of rejection.
Fool’s Paradise is a refreshing comedic oddity. Day earns laugh-out-loud results from treading an inspired creative wavelength within familiar territory.
Fool’s Paradise is now playing in theaters.
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