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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

Zoom movie review: zoom out

Zoom red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This is what happens when men try to tell a story primarily about women — and also try to ape Charlie Kaufman — and fail miserably.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): desperate for stories about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There are naked breasts everywhere in Brazilian-Canadian indie Zoom. Real breasts, photographs of real breasts, prosthetic breasts meant to be taken as real, doll breasts (on Real Doll-esque sex toys), comic-book-style animated breasts. Two of Zoom’s three concurrent interconnected stories are about, in large part, body image and body insecurity. In one, a woman frets over the size of her breasts; in the other, a man frets over the size of his penis. Take a guess if we ever see a penis.

This is what happens when men — Brazilian director Pedro Morelli and Canadian screenwriter Matt Hansen — try to tell a story primarily about women — the third section of the film is about a female model who is depersonalized in this work and isn’t taken seriously when she tries to do something more intellectual — and fail miserably. They may think they have delved deep into woman’s pain, but mostly all they’ve done is contribute to the cultural atmosphere that reduces women to their bodies and denies them personhood in the way that does not happen to men. Zoom is full of the usual coyness about penis size and about protecting the dignity of men even when it would be perfectly reasonably contextual for a man to be naked; the film is even shy about showing us a penis-extender sex aid in a box! But women’s breasts pop out constantly, even at moments when there is no point to be made about the very real culturally fueled anxieties women suffer over our bodies… not that I think the movie is trying to do such a thing at any point anyway.

It makes me doubt that Morelli and Hansen know what the fuck they’re talking about, and that’s before we ever get to the crushingly terrible weak ending.

Plays like a bad pastiche of Charlie Kaufman, one without the pathos it needs to make it work.
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Emma (Alison Pill: Hail, Caesar!, Snowpiercer) works in the sex-doll factory, painting their faces, where being surrounded on a daily basis by huge fake (though realistic) boobs and lunchtime sex with coworker Bob (Tyler Labine: The Boss, Monsters University) — a schlub who dares to criticize her body when his own is nothing to write home about — gives her a complex about her “smallish” chest. A comic book artist on the side, she creates her “dream man,” filmmaker Edward (rotoscoped Gael García Bernal: Rosewater, A Little Bit of Heaven) and his tale about trying to shift from making Hollywood blockbusters to a more intimate art film. Edward has always used his physical endowments to wow women — including studio honcho Marissa (rotoscoped Jennifer Irwin: Bad Teacher) — but when something happens to threaten that, he is thrown for a loop (though he copes more creatively and intelligently than Emma deals with her angst). His art film is about model Michelle (Mariana Ximenes), whose abusive boyfriend Dale (Jason Priestley: Tru Calling) scoffs at her attempt to write a novel, which is about a woman, Emma, who works in a sex doll factory but dreams of being a comic book artist…

None of these people feel realtweetZoom wastes the talents of, in particular, Pill and Bernal, though they do try their best, and are the only reason worth seeing this — and, as they all spiral deeper and deeper into absurdities of their own making, none of what they do feels like what real people would do. The movie tries to make a virtue of its contrivances in character and plot, with its roundrobin of artists inventing one another, but even that is inconsistent: Why is Edward aware of the changes that Emma makes to his story yet Emma is not aware of edits in Michelle’s novel? The something-something about life influencing art influencing life Zoom wants to be about ends up playing like a bad pastiche or Charlie Kaufman — there’s a lot of Adaptation in this — one that lacks all sense of the poignancy it seems to demand. Substituting a luridness meant to be comic is no satisfying substitution at all.


See the film’s official site for dates and cities.


red light 1.5 stars

Zoom (2016) | directed by Pedro Morelli
US/Can release: Sep 02 2016 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong sex, sex references, language, drug references)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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