web
counter


'Zero Charisma' Review: Social Torture Porn

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film Reviews | October 17, 2013 | Comments ()


large_ZERO-CHARISMA_still1.jpg

Zero Charisma reminds me of a Charles Bukowski novel, and I don’t mean that to be complimentary in the slightest. Bukowski wrote these novels with just abysmal characters, characters that seemed designed to avoid any modicum of sympathy. While the man could write, his characters, protagonists and all, were possessed of singular mediocrity. They were people of pathetic ambitions, banal cruelty, and constant failure. They were losers, through and through. Incurious boors who crashed around their dead end lives creating nothing but more wreckage. And yet despite the litanies of their tragic back stories, none evoke sympathy. They are born mediocre, will live mediocre lives, die in mediocrity. Say what you want about the tenets of Ayn Rand’s volumes of crap, but at least it’s an ethos.

From that perspective, Zero Charisma is a Bukowski novel wrapped in a role playing game shroud.

There is no humor in this film, which is odd given that it is billing itself as a hilarious dark comedy. No, see, comedy is funny. People being socially cruel to each other is not inherently funny. It can be deeply tragic if the storyteller gives us a reason to give a damn about the characters involved, to try to layer irony or complexity in some way, but none of that is on display here. It is just an exercise in assholes being assholes. Zero Charisma is an abysmal movie, populated by assholes torturing other assholes. It’s basically social torture porn.

It’s almost like a low-rent Napoleon Dynamite in which the writer has no idea how to make an antisocial loser sympathetic and instead just gives him a desperately tragic back story, of child abandonment and failed dreams, and the sole character quality of being a prickly dick to everyone he knows.

The closest thing to a sympathetic character is the nominal antagonist. He viciously befriends several people, challenges the protagonist’s tales of having had the script of The Matrix stolen from him by the Wachowskis, and the final nail of malice in his pure evil is in the way he dares to throw a punch at a guy who crashes a party at his house and then takes the first swing at him. Um. Yeah. Real asshole there.

It reminds me of the time I was dragged to see an off-Broadway production of Rent and didn’t understand why the antagonist was supposed to be the bad guy since he was the only one actually trying to do something with his life other than bitch and moan.

Oh and I almost forgot that there’s the role playing game element that is invoked in the title and paraded as the selling point of the film. This movie has nothing to do with role playing games, though they feature in the setting. They just exist in order to be the trump card of how pathetic the characters are, which as someone who regularly goes down to the local game shop and rolls dice in imaginary worlds, I find to be both absurd and hurtful, not because I don’t like that they’re making fun of something I enjoy, but because they seem to think that something millions of people do is just obviously hilariously stupid and idiotic. The entire movie feels like the cinematic equivalent of when Dee on Always Sunny tries to rile up a crowd by mocking someone for something any reasonable person doesn’t see as mock-worthy, and the entire crowd just dissipates with indifference.

It’s a final bit of cruelty that the bits and pieces of details about role playing games are not inaccurate. There’s enough it gets right about talking the talk and walking the walk that it feels like a betrayal of sorts. It’s one thing to produce a lazy cliche, the antisocial game player. The cliche might be idiotic, but by virtue of being a cliche has some distance from reality that can let you roll your eyes. And because cliches often have some basis in reality, there can be a self-conscious ribbing, recognizing your own qualities on the screen.

The problem with this movie is that it openly reviles role playing games, mocking them viciously at every turn, and doing so with the words and phrases that imply that this was written by someone who has played these games, and is twisting them around in order to make fun of them. This is not loving fun, this is not a self-conscious poking at a world you acknowledge that you’re part of, this is just being mean, clinically taking things out of context in the most cruel way possible like a prosecutor twisting your innocent words back around into guilt.

This entire film is like a Jack Chick tract written by someone who had actually gamed for a decade instead of by an old crazy guy who thought game players were in a cult and believed they actually had access to magical powers.

Don’t watch this film, don’t put money in the pockets of people who think that dullards being cruel to each other is humor and think that mean-spirited mockery is somehow an homage to its subject.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.



Are you following Pajiba on Facebook or Twitter? Because every time you do an angel does the Paul Rudd dance

Around the Web


Putting The Ken In Frankenstein: What We Learned From Last Night's 'American Horror Story: Coven' | The New Wes Anderson Trailer Looks C*ssing Amazing





Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • BiblioGlow

    *applauds* Now that is some bitching and scathing.

  • Peter Winkler

    "viciously befriends"? Now, how in hell do you viciously befriend someone?

  • Natallica

    Sorry, but I have LOTS of sympathy for Henry Chinaski (and for most Bukowski's character) BECAUSE they are born mediocre, live mediocre lives and will die in mediocrity.

  • Dragonchild

    So, it's like 90% of all pop culture today? Reality TV, daytime soaps, moral relativism drama, "dark & edgy" reboots. . . I can see myself hating this flick as much as you do, SLW, but what I don't understand is why you write as if this particular work is unique in its failings. More than half the stuff I see these days loses my interest because it boils down to "assholes dicking each other", as if it's an insurmountable challenge to make a well-adjusted protagonist interesting.

  • Blake Shrapnel

    "Say what you want about the tenets of Ayn Rand’s volumes of crap, but at least it’s an ethos."

    Fuckin' A, man.

  • The Kitastrophe

    "It reminds me of the time I was dragged to see an off-Broadway production of Rent
    and didn’t understand why the antagonist was supposed to be the bad guy
    since he was the only one actually trying to do something with his life
    other than bitch and moan."

    Oh HELLS yes. I thought I was the only one.

  • My inability to appreciate 'Rent' and the fact that I sympathized with 'the bad guy' over the other characters is actually what put the nail in the coffin of my last relationship but one.

  • MauraFoley

    I've always felt a little weird about that musical, because i know if I were in that little world I would totally be the evil corporate guy.

  • DehydrationStation

    You can't tell me to not watch this film! You're not even my real dad!

blog comments powered by Disqus





Follow Us





Viral Hits
Celebrity Facts

The Best TV & Movie Quotes

The Walking Dead

How I Met Your Mother

True Detective

Parks and Recreation

Cosmos

Hannibal

30 Practical Tips About the Horrors of Raising Children

25 Practical Tips About the Horrors of Raising Twins