J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Zoom: Hip and Self-Referential

Think of this film as Pirandello’s Möbius Strip. The looping narrative gamesmanship is clever, but the horny hipsters we could do without. Form duly trumps characterization in Pedro Morelli’s Zoom (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Emma is an aspiring cartoonist working a day job in a prosthetic sex doll factory, but in her evenings, she writes her graphic novel about the sexual escapades of Edward, a seductive Hollywood leading man, who has just directed his first film about Michelle, a Brazilian model struggling to find her artistic voice by writing a novel about Emma, an aspiring cartoonist, but you already know the rest. Everyone’s lives continue much as they always have until Emma vents some of her recent resentments by suddenly reducing an important part of Edward—and we’re not talking about his personality here.

The reduction comes at a particularly bad time for Edward, because he needs to seduce Marissa, the new studio head if he wants her to release his art film about Michelle. Originally, he intended it to end on an ambiguous but empowering note, but he loses artistic control when his frienemy Horowitz is brought in to reshoot the ending. Thus the narrative cycle is soured by a chain of bad karma.

The third act pay-off might be clever enough to redeem all the annoying smarminess that came before it. At the risk of sounding prudish, Zoom would have been much more interesting and considerably more fun if there had been less sexual content and more self-referential dot-connecting. Frankly, all the business in the naughty prosthetic factory brings back bad memories of the mannequin warehouse in the ridiculously overrated Maniac remake. To put it delicately, we really don’t need to see Alison Pill and Tyler Labine (Dale in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) having afternoon delight-time together.

Ironically, the most amusing performances come from Jennifer Irwin and Don McKellar, who are rotoscoped (a la Alois Nebel and A Scanner Darkly) in Edward’s animated sequences. The similarly ‘scoped Gael García Bernal might be slightly too convincing as the sleazy Edward. Pill and Labine are pretty shticky as Emma and her toy factory boss, but at least they register more than Mariana Ximenes’s bland Marina and the awkward-looking Jason Priestley underwhelming as her jerky rich boyfriend.

Zoom has real ambition, so many viewers will be frustrated when they do not like it more than they were hoping. There is just too much TMI. Inspiring dramatically mixed and contradictory feelings—and a knife’s edge 2.5 rating, Zoom opens today (9/2) in New York, at the Village East.

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