The Zero Theorem (R)

5 Stars

Ever heard of Harry Potter?

This is nothing like that.

David Thewlis, also known as Professor Lupin, is the only similarity between the two narratives.

The Z.T.’s bleak, folks.

It’s dark, foreboding and existential. To follow a recent trend it’s also allegorical. Therefore, things can get confusing.

[Quick sidebar: Counting Snowpiercer this marks Tilda Swinton’s second supporting role in a sci-fi allegory in the past year. What an oddly specific niche.]

Should you see it?

It depends on your viewing habits. If you’re a movie review blogger, you can do a lot worse than The Zero Theorem.

But for the average viewer, I wouldn’t recommend. There are plenty of better options available for rental. Skim some of my earlier blog posts if you need suggestions.

The price bugs me.

If you’re still interested it’s available for HD rental thru Xfinity OnDemand, iTunes and Amazon for $9.99.

Ten bucks feels like too much.

Despite the straight to VOD release, The Z.T. is a lot more ambitious than the trailer lets on. The preview lead me to believe director Terry Gilliam mailed it in.

But alas!

This movie contains a lot of solid material.

Where else are you going to find a pink chaise lounge?

Portions of the environment are sources of great irritation and intrigue. But I suppose that’s the Terry Gilliam thing. Much of the physical setting is reminiscent of 12 Monkeys, another mind-bending dystopian movie involving time travel and paradoxes.

Z.T.‘s futuristic landscape is elaborate and compelling. The streets are covered with graffiti; digital advertisements and adhesive ‘tags’ plastered all over the alleyway.

I’d say The Zero Theorem‘s right on par with A Dozen Bonobos.

Although I haven’t seen Brazil, my favorite Gilliam is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Watch it instead if it’s eluded you thus far.

For those dead-set on catching Z.T. here’s a couple notes on the casting.

Christoph Waltz stars as Qohen, and never ceases to impress.

After major supporting roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, he plays a completely different character here.

From the cadence of his voice to the movement of his gaze, it’s obvious he works hard to differentiate himself between roles.

What a dynamite thespian – good on ya, Christoph!

Matt Damon plays a small supporting role as ‘Management,’ and he’s excellent.

So add another bullet to the long list of ‘Good Reasons to Adore Mr. D.’

David Thewlis and Tilda Swinton are great. Lucas Hedges is good.

But far and away my favorite character is Bainsley.

Mélanie Thierry delivers an awesome performance, particularly befitting the Gilliam modus operandi. She’s got that twittery futuristic spunk, the neon haired quirketude. Which sounds grating, but it’s actually quite cute and delightful.

Part of this is thanks to the writing. In order to fill out the futuristic world in a realistic fashion, screenwriters often utilize the cyberpunk diction. It’s an alien form of English, and often seems bizarre at first.

It works well here, particularly because of the acting.

Every once in a while Bainsley will say something like, “You got a mouse in your pocket?” her charisma reminding the viewer to notice the occasional warmth.

Despite the bleak premise.

There is a lot of social commentary buried throughout. Some of it is a bit on-the-nose, like the satirical news station, ‘Dumbc’ or some such silliness.

But the more subtle stuff can really bolster a scene. When Qohen first meets Bainsley, it’s jarring to see the partygoers ‘fake smoking.’ At first it seems like quirk for the sake of quirk.

These moments are a lot more nuanced than they appear, however.

During a later scene, Qohen is sitting on a park bench. The backdrop is a swarm of ‘No [Insert Fun Activity] Allowed’ signs.

The visual flood of placards is both an eyesore and quite a strong metaphor.

Terry seems to envision a future in which we’re plagued by bureaucratic overregulation.

Considering the recent discussion regarding the heroic San Franciscans and their unending skirmish against synthetic shopping totes, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Gill.i.Am.

Finally, I really enjoyed the artificial reality. The blending of digital pornography and prostitution offers a compelling and original spin on the sci-fi construct.

By the by, it’s ironic considering Qohen’s pursuing an answer to the ultimate question.

But he can’t install a little bit of conduit?

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