Released: 2nd November
Seen: 11th November
Sometimes a film is filled with subtext meant to make the audience think as they leave the cinema. Sometimes a film is working on layers that can be unravelled for decades to reveal new ideas and meanings with every viewing… and then there are films that are pretentious self-fellatio giving trainwrecks that want you to study them and find out what they mean when in reality they don’t mean a single goddamn thing, but the director threw in enough strange and weird shots that you could believe that there is something deeper there… welcome to Zeroville, a film that discovered it likes the smell of its own farts and wants you to know just how awesome that odour is.
Based on the novel of the same name, Zeroville follows Vikar (James Franco). Vikar has only known about films for a very short time, a few years, but he has already become obsessed with them. Obsessed enough that Vikar has a shaved head with an image of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift from A Place In The Sun tattooed on the back of it. He goes to Hollywood and almost instantly gets a job building sets but when he proves to be a pain in the arse doing that job, instead of getting fired like he would be in the real world. He gets transferred to the Editing department (because those skills are totally transferable) where he starts getting more work, gaining accolades as a brilliant editor and also getting criticism for being an asshole editor. Eventually, he starts noticing that in several old films there are single frames of a woman he knows, Soledad (Megan Fox) and he tries to find all the frames of this secret movie. Oh, also he’s accused of the murder of Sharon Tate but they stopped giving a fuck about that by the 5-minute mark.
Zeroville has been through a little bit of hell, it was actually finished in 2015 but because the studio went broke it’s been sitting on a shelf for 5 years. Fortunately, those 5 years haven’t aged it… unfortunately, that’s because pretentious film student bullshit is timeless and is the same now as it was back then. This is the kind of film you’d expect from a particularly ambitious film student who wanted to show off that they could do everything. They just figured out how to put a coloured gel in front of a light and have no reason to use it but casting a disturbing red glow looked so cool in Suspiria that obviously this film needs it. Sure, there’s no reason everything should randomly be black and white like a silent film, but this camera has a black and white setting so we gotta try it out. Oooh, I can dolly right up to someone’s eyeball in such detail that I can see each lash? Hell yes, I’m doing it. Every single kind of shot is in here not because it makes sense, but because it could be done.
Because it could be done, Zeroville has our main character being accused of the brutal murder of Sharon Tate within the first 5 minutes of the film and as I expressed last year when I reviewed The Haunting of Sharon Tate, if you’re going to deal with the topic of the murder of Sharon Tate then you had better do it right. This film opts to use it for one shocking scene that comes out of nowhere and is then never brought up again. This film does that a lot, brings things up for a brief moment only to never bring them up again even when it’s actually kind of important.
The only thing Zeroville enjoys more than bringing things up and then ignoring them is playing clips from classic movies. Look, basic rule of cinema, don’t put clips from a better movie in your movie because it will not end well. Don’t show me a boring scene where two nothing characters sit and watch Sunset Boulevard, because all that makes me want to do is switch your piece of shit movie off and go watch Sunset Boulevard (A film that you should probably watch long before you even consider watching this one since Sunset Boulevard is a much better critique of the Hollywood system than Zeroville could ever hope to be). Same with the other movies this film plays, Eraserhead, Holy Mountain, A Place In The Sun, just go through the list of films that this movie uses to pad the runtime and watch those instead because they are so much better.
If I were to praise anything I suppose the acting from some of the cast isn’t bad. Jacki Weaver once again proves that she’s just perfect with her short role as the editor who teaches the lead how to edit films, Seth Rogan isn’t awful in his brief but bombastic role. Hell, this film managed to pull out a performance from Will Ferrell that I actually liked, and I thought Will was dead to me after Downhill. Other than that we’re working with monotone forgettable performances that mostly consist of characters blandly reciting the titles of movies after someone references them.
Calling Zeroville pretentious might’ve been an understatement… Zeroville is in love with itself, to the point where it created a clone so it could give itself a reach-around. It’s so sure that it’s saying something important about cinema and what it means to people and how important it is but all it’s saying is that we need to take James Franco’s cameras away from him and only let him have it back when he can get a dozen sober adults to vouch for his idea because this is an awful movie.