Paradox

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Paradox Movie Poster Image
Unique mix of dreamy Western, Neil Young concert; cursing.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 73 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages on the necessity of clean drinking water and non-GMO seeds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While it's not really discussed, Neil Young has managed to maintain a career in music for over half a century. 

Violence

Musicians pretending to be cowboys walk around with guns and rifles. 

Sex

Brief, nonsexual nudity of man jumping into a creek (buttocks). 

Language

Recurring profanity: "f--k" and variations, "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "bastard," "goddamn," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking. Joint smoking. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Paradox is a 2018 movie in which Neil Young and his band play at being cowboys in a Western dreamscape, make cryptic comments on food, music, and nature, and then rock out. It's light on story but heavy on message: "Water is Life," non-GMO seeds are good. There's some drinking as the "cowboys" hang around talking, and some joint smoking around a campfire. Occasional profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," and variations. Viewers will see brief nudity: a man jumping into a creek (buttocks). For parents who grew up on Neil Young's music, it's a nice introduction for their teens to Young's overall sound and a solid representation of what much of his long career in music has been about in terms of music, aesthetic, and activism. 

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What's the story?

In PARADOX, the Man in the Black Hat (Neil Young) sits in a chair and strums an acoustic guitar in a Wild West dreamscape. He's surrounded by other "cowboys" with names like "Weed" and "The Particle Kid," who play cards, walk around with guns and rifles, swim in creeks, and make pithy comments on food, water, and the cyclical nature of existence. Later, The Man in the Black Hat has a near showdown with Red (Willie Nelson), but instead they work together to rob a seed bank. In the middle of this surreal world of dusty denim and cryptic messages, Neil Young and his band rock out live in concert in Telluride, Colorado. 

Is it any good?

This film highlights the music, aesthetic, and activist messages that have defined Neil Young's half-century-long career. By this point, Young is probably the only performer who could pull off this odd mix of Wild West and concert without coming across as pretentious and self-indulgent. It hearkens back to a time when Young, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, The Band, and other country-rock types fancied themselves "outlaws" like the kind seen in sepia-toned "Wanted: Dead or Alive" posters. It also evokes an earlier and similarly structured Neil Young movie -- 1982's The Human Highway, in which a very strung-out Dennis Hopper plays a short-order cook and Young plays a gas station attendant before an extended musical sequence in which Young plays an amazing version of "Hey Hey My My" with (believe it or not) Devo (who also play technicians in a leaky nuclear power plant). 

The music throughout Paradox keeps the Wild West dreamland entertaining enough, but the climax of the live footage makes it all worthwhile. It starts slow, with Young's trademark warble bellowing lyrics that border on the kind of parody seen when Jimmy Fallon imitates Young, but once the band gets going, the viewer is reminded of the undeniable fact that more than activism and Wild West pretensions, it's his music that's enabled Young to sustain such a long career and remain relevant to subsequent generations. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music movies. How does Paradox compare to other movies in which well-known musicians perform live in concert? 

  • For many musicians of Young's genre, the "Wild West" has held a romantic fascination. Musicians like Young, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, and The Band all at times seemed to convey images of themselves as "outlaws." What's the appeal of Western movies, and how might the romanticized image of the "outlaw" seem like something relatable to Young and his contemporaries? 

  • How did the movie convey its environmental messages? Was it effective? Why or why not?

Movie details

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