Diablo Cody has proven to be a real innovative storyteller in this new millennium for women and the various emotional obstacles we face. She has done so effectively with JUNO, the Steven Spielberg produced dramedy "United States of Tara" and now with her latest effort "Paradise". Directed, written and produced by Cody, we are taken on the journey of Lamb (Julianne Hough), who after being severely burned in a plane crash, suffers a crisis in faith. After denouncing God in front of her parents (Holly Hunter & Nick Offerman) and her congregation, Lamb travels to "sin city" Las Vegas where she stumbles upon lounge singer/bartender Loray (Octavia Spencer) and fellow bartender William (Russell Brand), who begrudgingly take her under their wing to assist her in completing her "bucket list" to sin. I have to say based on her performances in "Safe Haven", "Footloose" and "Rock of Ages", I wasn't sure that Hough could carry this film, but I have to say she does so with much range and vulnerability, the type that only a "lamb" can have. Octavia Spencer is hilariously salty as lounge singer with a heart of gold - Loray and Russell Brand shows us his vulnerable side as the bartender who shags every new girl in "sin city", but somehow has an overprotective reaction to Lamb.
Diablo Cody's first foray into directing is very impressive and her writing, as usual, always has a message which makes one pause and think about the own state of their lives. PARADISE was one of the hits of Sundance this past year and is slated for a feature release in October. If you can't wait until then, you can catch it on DirectTV NOW!