Return to Paradise (1998 film)

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Return to Paradise
Return to paradise.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Produced by
  • David Arnold
  • Ezra Swerdlow
Screenplay by
Based on Force Majeure 
by Pierre Jolivet
Olivier Schatzky
Starring
Music by Mark Mancina
Cinematography Reynaldo Villalobos
Edited by
Distributed by Universal Pictures
PolyGram
Gramercy Pictures
Release dates
  • August 14, 1998 (1998-08-14) (USA)
  • April 16, 1999 (1999-04-16) (UK)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14 million
Box office $8,341,087[1]

Return to Paradise is a 1998 drama-thriller film directed by Joseph Ruben, written by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson, and starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche and Joaquin Phoenix. Return to Paradise is a remake of the 1989 French film Force Majeure. The film had its premiere on August 10, 1998, and was released to theaters on August 14, 1998.

Plot[edit]

Return to Paradise begins with a silent montage of a fun holiday in a Malaysian paradise showing the three main male characters in the movie having a great time. The opening scenes of the movie remain in Malaysia with a series of pulsating events providing the men with a myriad of adventures, including a scene when the young men are almost run over by a car while riding a bicycle and another when they are pressured into buying some rhinoceros horn from Malaysian locals. Eventually, the three men, Lewis McBride (Joaquin Phoenix), Sheriff (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Conrad) wind up at their beach front house on the ocean pondering their future in the island paradise.

Tony and Sheriff decide to return to New York, while Lewis, being a "greeny", wishes to travel to Borneo to save endangered orangutans. Back in New York, Sheriff is working as a limo driver and Tony as an architect.

A young lawyer named Beth (Anne Heche) informs them that their friend Lewis has served the last two years in Penang prison in Malaysia, because of the hash found at their Malaysian house. She reveals that he will receive the death sentence unless one or both of the men return to share responsibility. Beth assures both of the men that they will not suffer in the prison, be tortured nor harmed in any way. After a grueling eight days, during which they must make a decision, and a heated love affair between Beth and Sheriff, both men decide to return to Malaysia. Upon their arrival, all seems well until they visit the prison to see Lewis.

Lewis appears to have suffered psychological damage from the harsh imprisonment, although it is reported that he has not been tortured or starved as is the case with other prisoners. Beth subsequently reveals that she is Lewis' sister. Her lie makes Tony fearful of the Malaysian justice system and he abandons Lewis and flies back to the U.S. Sheriff follows Tony, but decides to face jail to save his friend and returns to the courtroom in which Lewis is being tried.

The judge (Patrick Teoh) seems heartened by this act of courage and bravery, until he discovers a news clipping from an American newspaper blaming the Malaysian justice system and condemning them for their harsh sentencing of Lewis. Because of this, the judge becomes infuriated and gives Lewis a death sentence, despite Sheriff's decision to accept his share of the responsibility. He also gives Sheriff an unknown period of jail time.

As Lewis is taken to his execution, Sheriff hears him screaming and struggling. From a window, he is able to call to him, to assure him repeatedly that he is not alone. Just before he is hanged, Lewis calms in response to these assurances and dies quietly.

Sheriff later assures Beth that Lewis, despite his emotional deterioration, seemed at the last moment to be at peace. Beth becomes emotional and kisses Sheriff as a sign of their love and connection. She tells him that the attorney general has said that Malaysian government will quietly release him within six months, once the media attention dies down, to save face.

As the guard takes Sheriff out, she tells him that she will take her brother back home and then come back and wait in Malaysia until he is released.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The film was directed by Joseph Ruben, and the screenplay was written by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson. Propaganda Films, Tetragram and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment produced the feature, which was distributed by Gramercy Pictures in the U.S., Universal Pictures in Germany, Warner Bros. in France, and 20th Century Fox in Argentina.

Casting[edit]

Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn were cast in the three leading roles of Beth Eastern, Lewis McBride and John "Sheriff" Volgecherev, respectively. Vera Farmiga made her feature film debut with this film, in the supporting role of Kerrie. Jada Pinkett Smith was cast in the supporting role of M.J. Major, and David Conrad was cast in the supporting role of Tony Croft.

Filming[edit]

Principal photography started in November 1997 and took place in many countries and locations, including New York City, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Hong Kong, China; Phuket, Thailand; and Macau, China.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Return to Paradise made $2,465,129 in its opening weekend in the United States (ranking 14th overall at the box office) for a per theater average of $2,554. The film went on to make a further $5,785,958, for a total domestic gross of $8,341,087.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mostly positive reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 71% "fresh" rating based on 45 reviews.[2] It currently holds a 54 out of 100 rating on Metacritic from 22 reviews.[3] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4, writing: "Return to Paradise has been compared to Midnight Express, another film about a thoughtless American facing the forfeit of his life in prison far from home. That was more of a visceral film. This one is more cerebral. Like Sheriff and Tony, we're pulled both ways by the story: We want them to go back and save Lewis, but we're not exactly sure we'd do the same. That's the Prisoner's Dilemma in a nutshell."[4] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Return to Paradise sounds as gimmicky as a Twilight Zone episode, but it's not. The film tracks the week in which Sheriff struggles to discover his conscience, and it puts us right in touch with his squirmy, divided soul."[5]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote: "As Sheriff, Mr. Vaughn projects a deep-seated skepticism and chilliness that give the story its suspense; he seems quite capable of keeping his distance and leaving Lewis to die. And Mr. Phoenix, though not often seen after the film's vivid Malaysian prologue, conveys the terrible pathos in Lewis's situation. But as Ms. Heche's formidable Beth Eastern does her best to manipulate the other characters on Lewis's behalf, Return to Paradise takes on the abstract weightiness of an ethical debate rather than the visceral urgency of a thriller. Though the clock ticks relentlessly enough to sustain the story's tension, the film finally seems to be a character study in search of a gripping plot."[6] Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times gave a negative review, writing: "If it's to be experienced at all, Return to Paradise is best seen as a lively piece of pulp, not a profound exploration of the vagaries of the human soul."[7]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2000 Csapnivalo Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Anne Heche Nominated
2000 Best Male Performance Joaquin Phoenix Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Return to Paradise (1998)". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ "Return to Paradise (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  3. ^ "Return to Paradise Reviews". Metacritic. 
  4. ^ "Return to Paradise Review (1998)". RogerEbert.com. August 14, 1998. 
  5. ^ "Movie Review: 'Return to Paradise'". Entertainment Weekly. August 21, 1998. 
  6. ^ "Return to Paradise (1998) FILM REVIEW; At the Mercy of Foolish Friends". The New York Times. August 14, 1998. 
  7. ^ "Movie Review 'Paradise': A Prison Potboiler With Serious Intent". The Los Angeles Times. August 14, 1998. 

External links[edit]