Diablo Cody, writer of Juno and Jennifer's Body, is the master of taking adolescence, stuffing it into a cannon, and shooting it as far from her characters as possible. Indeed, in the Oscar-winning writer's films, no characters gently and gradually come of age. Instead, they're forced to reckon with the cruelty of life in the fastest time possible — or before you could say "homeskillet." Juno gets pregnant, Jennifer gets a demon body, and, now, Lamb gets to party with Russell Brand.
In Paradise, Cody's first directorial effort, Julianne Hough plays a cleverly tongued Christian conservative whose looks and innocence fade after an accident that left her, as she mentions, "barbecued in jet fuel." The plot of the film seems par for the course when it comes to Cody (girl is confronted with that which she is not familiar with — in this case, the secular world of Las Vegas), but we do see something strikingly new during the course of the trailer: The emergence of Hough as a legitimate actress.
The former Dancing With the Stars dancer is typically swathed in make-up and elaborate gowns, making her almost unrecognizable in Paradise. Her nearly make-up free face in Paradise makes the nuances of her expressions easier to note, and makes us not, for once, think of C-list stars like Adam Carolla when seeing the reality star-turned-actress. To boot, Hough actually turns out to be the perfect Cody star — an actress who looks like she was plucked out of a Midwest Miss Congeniality competition to deftly balance drama and comedy in an uncomfortable role. Who would think someone who has stood next to Hélio Castroneves and begged for votes could really sell the line, "In the next presidential election, I may vote Democrat"?
Also unrecognizable in Paradise, which hits theaters Oct. 18 and DirecTV Aug. 8? Nick Offerman, who appears sans mustache.
Is Paradise the film that will finally catapult Hough past tween-directed clunkers like Footloose and Safe Haven and into legitimate stardom?
Image: Image Entertainment