A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
You can tell an Ulrich Seidl film by its rigorous form and seemingly digressive improvisations. It's like a corral with mathematically precise iron gates that herd a human menagerie into striking configurations. The previous two sentences are the high-toned kinds of things critics have been writing about Seidl's work since his early breakthroughs "Models" (1999) and "Dog Days" (2001), so I figured I'd get it out of the way.
"Paradise: Hope" is the final film in Seidl's "Paradise" trilogy, after the blindingly beautiful, wise "Love" and the quiet storm of "Faith." The subject of "Hope" is Melanie (Melanie Lenz), the 13-year-old daughter of the first film's protagonist and niece of the second film's subject. All three episodes are about an Austrian woman (in this case a budding woman), seeking fulfillment in a partner. Melanie's mother sought affection and appreciation from Kenyan boy toys. Her aunt sought it in the arms of Jesus. And now Melanie seeks an outlet for her surging sexual curiosity, finding a candidate even less appropriate than impoverished Africans or a Christ statue: The director of her weight loss camp, a doctor at least 40 years her senior.
Which reminds me to mention another high-toned thing you'll hear from critics about Seidl: He's a provocateur who traffics in shocking, embarrassing and emotionally taxing situations. His characters pursue happiness right into traps set by cruel, duplicitous exploiters, or, worse, by such disadvantages as aging, obesity, disability and poverty. These films are described as grueling endurance tests, "not for the squeamish."