Eden is less a cautionary tale about a life fueled by music, clubs, and drugs, than about how life can pass you by when you aren't looking.
French director Mia Hansen-Løve co-wrote the film with her brother, Sven, on whom the main character, Paul (Félix de Givry), is based.
Eden follows Paul through two decades of his career as a DJ, starting out as an excited kid obsessed with garage, a form of dance music that originated in New York's gay-friendly Paradise Garage in the 1980s and is characterized by strong female vocals. As Paul becomes more entrenched in the scene - and the lifestyle that comes with it - he begins to slip away from the person he used to be. He is kicked out of his Ph.D. program, he spends his inheritance, and he goes into debt.
Life moves on around him. He stays the same.
At first, Eden feels meandering and loose, and that certainly can be a turnoff. But as the film coalesces, its pace proves to be more intentional.
One of Hansen-Løve's deftest tricks is the way Eden deals with time. Paul starts out as a 20-year-old talent, but as he grows listless, time begins to drift, as well. Soon, he is 34, curled up in his mother's house, admitting to her that being a DJ might not have been a stable career move. Paul stagnates, aging through the women who drift in and out of his life.
One, American ex-pat Julia (Greta Gerwig), notes, after not seeing Paul for years, that he has stayed exactly the same. The first time Julia is in the frame, she's a waitress and struggling writer living in Paris. To her, Paul is a footnote in her life. To Paul, she is The One. In her last appearance, she's a published writer living in New York and about to have a baby. She has moved on, he has not.
Eden is the kind of movie that hits you when you least expect it. Just when I thought it was a mess, its aimlessness began to make complete sense.
There's an excellent running joke throughout about Daft Punk, the masked French DJ duo. Everyone consistently discusses the merits and popularity of the group, but when the actors playing the two, Thomas and Guy-Man, try to get into clubs, they are consistently refused entry.
Daft Punk takes up a large part of the soundtrack, but other legends of the dance genre are given space, as well. Like Paul, it is easy to get lost in the music.
Eden ***1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve. With Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Roman Kolinka. Distributed by Broad Green Pictures.
Running time: Two hours, 11 mins.
Parents' guide: R (drug use, language, and some sexuality/nudity).
Playing at: Ritz Bourse.EndText