ZOOM, semianimated comedy/puzzle film, not rated, The Screen, 3 chiles
What is the ultimate nature of reality? Is this all just a dream within a dream? Do you really expect to find the answer in a movie?
Christopher Nolan, Davids Fincher and Lynch, and Charlie Kaufman, among others, have popularized the puzzle film, in which characters navigate mysteriously porous boundaries between past, present, and future; truth and fiction; fantasy and nightmare. The tone of these movies tends to be dark and brooding — the sphere beyond the looking glass can be a dangerous place.
Zoom, on the other hand, is disarmingly dorky Russian-doll filmmaking, a puzzle movie with the slick, cool veneer surgically removed and replaced with a vivid splash of neon — along with boob and wiener jokes.
Emma (Alison Pill) works at a sex-doll factory, where she’s having a casual fling with her coworker Bob (Tyler Labine). (If these actors’ names seem familiar yet strange, like you know them from somewhere but you can’t quite place them, it’s because they exist in a parallel moviemaking universe — Canada.) In her spare time, Emma sketches comic book-style heroes and heroines, including a bustier version of herself and a cute guy she imagines as her “dream man.” Her sketches of this stylish gent come to animated life, a la A-ha’s 1985 music video for “Take on Me,” and the movie begins to flick back and forth between Emma’s live-action world and the rotoscoped adventures of dream man Gael García Bernal as Edward, a slick film director whom the ladies just won’t leave alone. Sex scenes are ample in Zoom, and more often than not, they’re animated. It’s all handled with a refreshingly light touch, though, without the tired attitudes Hollywood tends to trot out when stories get spicy.
Edward is making a movie about a Brazilian model named Michelle, who longs to break into novel-writing and has a hard time being taken seriously. The budding novelist is played by Mariana Ximenes, and the sections of the movie dedicated to her world are once again live-action. The transitions between the drawn and photographed sequences are seamless, the script is lively, and the actors are all terrific in admittedly limited roles.
As for the narrative arc, well, the three central dramas (trouble at the sex-doll factory, the director’s attempt to complete his film despite some very personal problems, and the model’s search for herself) begin to overlap and entwine, and more than that should not be revealed — not for fear of ruining any shocking twist but because what drama there is gets stretched pretty thin. The puzzle isn’t really the point; the plot emphasizes fluffy fun over mystery. While Zoom may dabble in valid, if simplistic, themes about body image and how people define each other based on appearances, it is a divertissement, pure and simple.
One significant demerit must be handed out. The score, for which the capable turntablist Kid Koala is credited but is not solely to blame — other names appear in the credits — is inexcusably cheesy and annoying, punctuating visual gags with on-the-nose sonic raspberries and zany riffs, and signifying suspense with the “mischief’s afoot” melodies you’d expect from a Disney cartoon. — Jeff Acker
Ladies and magenta men: Gael García Bernal