TIFF 2015: Zoom
Graphic novelist Emma (the always excellent Alison Pill) works in a sex doll factory by day while drawing a new story at night. The story she’s drawing is about Edward (Gael Garcia Bernal), a famous action movie director trying to make a serious art film. The film he’s making is about Michelle (Mariana Ximenes), a model and aspiring novelist who drops everything to fly to Brazil so she can finish her novel about a graphic novelist named Emma who works in a sex doll factory. Brazilian director Pedro Morelli takes this closed loop of a narrative and throws in as many stylistic quirks and format changes as he can, turning Zoom into a frantic piece of metafiction that feels like nothing more than a collection of half-baked ideas.
At least screenwriter Matt Hansen tries to do something interesting, and for a time Morelli’s slick direction and the strong cast keep things interesting. But the film’s attempts to comment on the creative process get drowned out by Morelli making sure everything stays busy, and gimmicks like making Edward’s story entirely animated (remember, he’s in a graphic novel) look neat but feel superfluous. Bernal’s charm makes Edward’s rather bland story about wounded masculinity passable but Ximenes winds up with the short straw here, as her story winds up being a little too accurate in its attempt to be a bad art film. Morelli’s energy and the strength of Pill’s storyline (by far the best of the three) help make the film go by quickly, although it never winds up breaking past its shiny surface. The finale, where the closed loop transforms into an ouroboros, is neat to watch unfold, but the film might have served itself better if that zaniness came sooner rather than later.