For those who haven’t yet written off James Franco’s entire career, there’s some cause for optimism in the first act of Zeroville, his much delayed adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable novel by Steve Erickson. Oddly enough, it starts around the same time of the final act of Tarantino’s latest, showing the influx of new talent flooding the Hollywood industry, in this case focusing on Vikar (played by Franco himself), who starts as a set designer and then becomes interested in film editing. All the while, he’s surrounded by actors playing versions of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, the cast and crew of Love Story, among many other details that are likely to make a cinephile jump in their seat a bit.
But the film derails when it introduces its main source of conflict: Vikar’s infatuation with an actress played by Megan Fox, introduced through Vikar’s screening of Jesus Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos. As the performances become more and more strenuous and exaggerated, it becomes apparent that the film’s image of how Hollywood works is merely clichéd. As the film twists and turns to justify its Hollywood portrait, it gets away from the sense of awe and discovery that Vikar displays the film’s first minutes, where he discovers genuine joy in the art of movies and editing. It’s downright embarrassing to see his character speak at the Venice Film Festival, praising a bunch of random movies by calling them good, great or masterpieces, for no apparent reason. And the third act is just nonsensical, again changing the film’s tone, this time by incorporating some fairy tale elements, and thus prompting viewers to throw away any remaining goodwill they might have had for the film.
Published as part of September 2019’s Before We Vanish.