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Paradise Hills trailer strands Emma Roberts in a stunning utopia — with a dystopian dark side

By Benjamin Bullard
Emma Roberts in Paradise Hills

It may be an independent film, but the visual feast that frames Emma Roberts’ trip to the underbelly of a flawed utopia makes the first trailer for Paradise Hills look like a sci-fi thriller done on a blockbuster budget.

Roberts stars as Uma, a girl sent by her wealthy parents to Paradise Hills, a mysterious, island-isolated human refinery where young women are trained to perfectly exemplify the traits and social graces that befit their class. On the surface, Paradise Hills is a vividly colored wonderland, the sort of dreamlike utopia that’s hard to resist — even for those who arrive as less-than-willing pupils.

But as she befriends other high-society trainees like Chloe (Danielle McDonald), Yu (Awkwafina), and Mexican pop star Amarna (Eiza Gonzalez), Uma and the rest of the clique begin to realize that Paradise  Hills — as well as the mysterious Duchess (Milla Jovovich) who runs it — are hiding a sinister secret.

Paradise Hills’ distinctive look is the work of first-time director Alice Waddington, a Spanish fashion photographer who’s previously helmed only a handful of short films but brings a set designer’s sharp eye to the movie’s surreal yet believable world. The movie’s screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival drew praise from critics for its vividly realized setting, as well as for its ambitious allegorical story, which reportedly challenges consensus thinking about power, authority, and mainstream society’s expectations of women.

All that high-concept stuff doesn’t appear to strand Paradise Hills in art movie territory, though. Once the women uncover the facility’s secret, the danger is real — and there’s no outside help coming to show them the way out. “It's a race against the clock as Uma and her friends try to escape Paradise Hills before it consumes them all,” the official description teases.

Set for a simultaneous premiere both to digital platforms and in theaters, Paradise Hills is slated to arrive on Nov. 1.