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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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.

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

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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

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • James Di Fiore

    You seem angry and emotional instead of professional. I also think you completely butchered the vibe of the movie. Really, really weak review.

  • I have no interest in critics — or any movie lover — who doesn’t get emotional talking about movies. If you’re the opposite, move along: you will find no joy here.

  • James Di Fiore

    It’s just that I feel you got it all wrong. The male character with the shrunken body part was the most humiliated, Allison Pill’s character rejected her fake breasts. If anything the film was denouncing stereotypical body types. Sorry, I just think you let your predisposition confuse you a little, no offense.

  • G’bye

    LOL. She doesn’t like the movie and you do, and you can’t take it. It’s time for your bottle, you big baby.

  • bronxbee

    why is it that people always say, “no offense” when they just… offended?

  • Danielm80

    It’s one of those phrases that, they think, absolves them of all blame. Other examples include “Just kidding” and “Don’t get mad at me for saying this but…”

    I’ve started telling people, if you say, “Don’t get mad but…” then I promise I’m going to get mad at you.

  • James Di Fiore

    Actually, it’s a figure of speech when you really don’t care if you offend or not.

    I’ll take the New York Times review over this one anyway. Even with her paltry 5% rating it is still a high ranking film. I guess she just wanted the chance to cry sexism.


  • Danielm80

    You’re really putting a lot of effort into telling us how little you care about our opinion. Most people would just say, “I guess this isn’t the critic for me” and read the Times review instead.

  • G’bye

    Ha ha!

    Poor, sad, fragile little man. A movie reviewer doesn’t enjoy a film he likes and he just can’t shut up and move on like he should. So he makes a comment and then finds – shock of all shocks – that it isn’t just one person who disagrees with him, but a bunch of other people too! “What do you mean, there’s no place for me in this conversation?” he thinks. “I can put my two cents in whenever I feel like it! Especially when the movie reviewer is a woman!”

    Do you cower under your bed and weep at the thought of a person having a different opinion than you, you sad, fragile little man? Do you look at movie reviews of films you like and find out, first, which ones are negative and, second, which are written by critics who are also women, and make useless comments on their reviews because the thought of a woman disagreeing with you makes you want to stamp your little foot and throw a tantrum?

    Poor little guy.

    Do you need someone to tuck you in at night too? Do you need someone to give you a glass of milk and pat your head and tell you, “Don’t worry, little man, you’re still so, so special to me, and there are plenty of men out there for you to commiserate with, men who are sexist and ignorant and have enjoyed the same privilege as you all their lives?” Do you need that, you sad, fragile little man?

    I guess you do.

    You can go back to rocking back and forth and sucking your thumb now, SFLM. The rest of us welcome an opportunity to discuss a film without throwing tantrums or threatening that we’re not playing anymore when someone disagrees with us. You know, like grownups.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    XKCD 386

  • James Di Fiore


  • And your predispositions do not influence your reaction to a movie, I suppose?

  • I’ll take the New York Times review over this one anyway.

    So take it. Who is stopping you?

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