It's understandable what he liked about the idea. The scenes of islanders rollicking to movies are thrilling. You may never see an audience react with such pure, naked emotion to the Three Stooges. Curly brings down the house. (So does Queen Latifah, for that matter, in "Bringing Down the House.") While difficult films tend to clear the room, physical comedy rocks these people's isolated world. (I won't spoil the fun by describing how they react to "Jackass.") Though his family doesn't always understand, "Reel Paradise" demonstrates the power and pride Pierson feels in a packed theater exploding with delight.
Unfortunately, James spends more time filming the Piersons reacting to the island and to one another than he does the Fijians reacting to the movies. All the usual bickering from reality TV is present. John and wife, Janet, argue with a drunken landlord. John and Janet argue with their 16-year-old daughter, Georgia. John and Janet argue with each other. (John argues with just about everyone on the island.) Don't call it "The Osbournes Go to Fiji," but these "Real World" moments are often tedious and dumbfounding. You may ask, with good reason, what does all this have to do with independent movies?
Very little, is the sense by the time "Reel Paradise" comes to a close. Pierson cites his frustration and boredom with independent filmmaking as a reason for the trip. The scene comes across as a kind of hasty excuse from director James. Most of "Reel Paradise," with all its melodramatic family-life filler, could have been shot in Texas. But then you'd have the inevitable question, how would it play in Taveuni?
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