Sean K. Cureton

Posts Tagged ‘Alison PIll’

Zoom: A Fractured Comedy On Self-Identity

In Movies on VOD: Recommendation of the Week on February 2, 2019 at 11:54 am
Zoom

Screen Media Films

Zoom (2016)
Directed by Pedro Morelli
VOD Rating: Liked It

From up-and-coming director Pedro Morelli and first-time screenwriter Matt Hansen, Zoom is a fascinating fantasy about artistic identity. Tracking the lives of three central protagonists, Morelli miraculously creates a strange, circuitous world wherein everything is connected. Despite seemingly existing within the confines of each other’s imaginative works of fiction, comic book artist Emma Boyle (Alison Pill), movie director Edward Deacon (Gael García Bernal), and aspiring novelist Michelle (Mariana Ximenes) soon bleed into each other’s codependent realities. A self-professed admirer of the work of Charlie Kaufman, Morelli‘s film works on some of the same levels of subjective realism and solipsistic daydream. Like Adaptation or Synecdoche, New York, Zoom artfully depicts the interiority of the artistic mind in pursuit of an individually imagined human ideal.

At the beginning of Zoom, comic book artist Emma Boyle (Alison Pill) is introduced within the stifling environs of her day job as a sex doll manufacturer. Complimented by her earnest, albeit doughy and sophomoric, boyfriend Bob (Tyler Labine), Emma’s life is one of compromised artistic ambition and personal fulfillment. So begins Emma’s story, one that examines objective beauty set against subjective self-worth, as illustrated via several layers of artistic reinvention. After being frustrated by her own apparent beauty as seen by other people, Emma vents all of her anguish into her creation of Edward Deacon (Bernal), an adonis film director made in her own image of what she imagines to be the perfect man. But little does Emma know that within the panels of her latest graphic novel lies another layer of her fabricated self; enter Michelle (Ximenes), who simultaneously serves as the subject of Edward’s directorial vision and the architect of Emma’s own neurosis.

Keeping Morelli‘s aesthetic and narrative debts to the works of Charlie Kaufman in mind, Zoom might be seen as something of an offshoot from the latter filmmaker’s indelible impression on the landscape of independent filmmaking. Morelli obviously loves the ways in which Kaufman is able to examine artistic identity and self-consciousness through various meta-fictional conceits. Borrowing heavily from such a postmodern filmmaking standard, Zoom flirts with a lot of Kaufman-like feats of cinematic surrealism and existential ambiguity. Seen striving towards various romantic ideals of self, perpetuated by such socially propagated traps as body image and sexual anxiety, Morelli‘s characters set about recasting their own lives against that of one another’s throughout what proves to be a complicated and convoluted comedy. Finally, when the worlds of Emma (Pill), Edward (Bernal), and Michelle (Ximenes) collide, and each depiction of their respectively idealized selves is forced to look at one another, Morelli grants the viewer cataclysmic absolution.

Zoom concludes in a state of apparent indecision in keeping with much of the narrative’s incessant grapplings with self-identity dictated by social revisionism and personal insecurity. Emma, Edward, and Michelle can’t quite seem to reach an absolute conception of self on their own independent volitions, though in one final collaborative effort briefly intimated the three fractured selves might yet finally merge into one entirely realized idea of human imperfection. Human perfectionism is made imperfect in practice throughout Zoom, thanks in no small part to Morelli’s indelible comedic taste and compassion for his tumultuously conflicted protagonists. Even when Zoom falls a little short in terms of offering a conclusive ending to its overly complicated and interconnected narrative threads, Morelli and Hansen offer a filmed comedy about artistic representations of self-identity that offers emotional catharsis for its characters and viewers. There is no easy answer to how one goes about achieving satisfaction with one’s self and work in Morelli‘s film, but there is thankfully no shortage of uproariously heartfelt moments of acceptance in the face of human imperfection.

Zoom is currently available on Netflix, and is My Movies on VOD: Recommendation of the Week. This review is an abridged version of an article that was originally published by Film Inquiry

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Goon: Last of the Enforcers: An Inside Hockey Sports Comedy

In Movies on VOD: Recommendation of the Week on December 16, 2017 at 12:40 pm
Goon: Last of the Enforcers

Entertainment One

Goon: Last of the Enforcers (2017)
Directed by Jay Baruchel
VOD Rating: Liked It

Goon: Last of the Enforcers sees director, writer, and actor Jay Baruchel applying a second chapter to his 2011 hit sports comedy Goon. Starring Seann William Scott once again as the dimwitted minor league ice hockey enforcer Doug “The Thug” Glatt, Baruchel pulls from a roster of surprisingly well-rounded cast of characters in the making of a second act that sees Doug facing a brutal end to a short career. After sustaining severe injuries during a fight with competing enforcer Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), Doug leaves his position as the newly appointed captain of the Halifax Highlanders at the behest of his pregnant wife Eva (Alison Pill). But despite all of its scurrilous bluster, bloody knuckles, and sophomoric humor, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is a less worthwhile successor to its predecessor. Without the help of co-writer Evan Goldberg, Baruchel and Jesse Chabot have done a minor disservice to what made the original movie an unexpected cult hit and lose sight of their audience in recreating some of the deeper cuts from sports history.

Taking direct inspiration from real life exhibition events, Goon: Last of the Enforcers grapples with the continuing controversy surrounding violence in professional hockey. Specifically, the film examines the very real ramifications of the kind of fisticuffs most frequently engaged in by enforcers hired by minor and senior league teams. Like Doug Smith – whose autobiography and career helped inform the character portrayed in the film by Seann William Scott – enforcers have long been brought into the hockey industry for their ability to take a beating. Oftentimes lacking in any overt grace on the ice, enforcers were expected to beat themselves to death in gladiatorial combat. In Goon, a lot of the physiological damage that goes into the making of an enforcer is glossed over in service of a feel-good sports comedy; in Goon: Last of the Enforcers, the very real toll that fighting for sport takes on Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Scott) shows its true colors.

Director Michael Dowse brought a healthy dose of subtlety to the proceedings behind the scenes in the making of Goon. Beyond the film’s lurid subject, viewers were graced with the rare sports comedy that was about people who just so happened to be involved in athletic competition. In Goon: Last of the Enforcers, Baruchel turns in a directorial debut that teems with untapped potential. Far too often, Baruchel indulges in fanboy adulation, resulting in a movie that feels like it was made for hockey super-fans only. The references that it makes to the contemporary concern over violence in hockey – and the precarious position that certain censorious voices have put the industry under – serves as an inside hockey reference that only the most well-versed sports historians will catch onto without having to seek out a whole host primary sources.

Despite a few new faces that briefly enliven the mood – namely Elisha Cuthbert, Trent Pardy, Jason Jones, and Wyatt Russell – Goon: Last of the Enforcers loses sight of the characters that made the first movie so engaging. Played out like the minor league hockey parable that Baruchel was ironically going for, it’s hard to imagine the film leaving as serious an imprint in the minds of general moviegoers that Goon continues to conjure in its breathless dynamism. Picking up from where the first film left off in 2011, Goon: Last of the Enforcers still revels in the playful camaraderie sustained between returning rival and mentor Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber) and Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Scott), but simultaneously manages to underserve Alison Pill as the once psychologically complicated Eva. Beyond paying minor lip service to the emotional resonance of the many returning characters from Goon, Baruchel is far more concerned with the immediacy of hockey in round two. Serving as another ode to ice hockey, Goon: Last of the Enforcers loses sight of its audience in recreating some of the deeper cuts from sports history.

Goon: Last of the Enforcers is currently available on iTunes, and is My Movies On VOD: Recommendation of the Week. This review is an abridged version of an article that was originally published by Film Inquiry.