Film Review: ‘Zeroville’

Variety | 8/21/2019 | Peter Debruge
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I’m tired of hearing how some novels are “impossible to adapt.” Balderdash! Just because some books don’t lend themselves to being translated from page to screen doesn’t mean that the attempt ought not to be made. Just ask James Franco, who’s shown a speed freak’s determination to tackle some of the unlikeliest literary adaptations of the last decade, from William Faulkner (“As I Lay Dying,” “The Sound and the Fury”) to John Steinbeck (“In Dubious Battle”) to Cormac McCarthy (“Child of God”). Frankly, he’s not very good at it, but that doesn’t stop him. Nor should it. Even Franco’s failures are fascinating, like asymmetrical pottery-wheel mishaps that wouldn’t passs for a vase, but wind up looking like modern art.

From the moment of its publication in 2007, Steve Erickson’s postmodern showbiz satire “Zeroville” was widely described as “unfilmable” — which was like waving a red flag in front of Franco. Truth be told, “Zeroville” was practically begging to be turned into a movie, and even though the result is a mess, something interesting should have come from it. The main character, Vikar, is singularly obsessed with cinema, so much so that he has the faces of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor from “A Place in the Sun” tattooed across his bald scalp. He heads straight from seminary school to Hollywood, works his way up from set builder to film editor, falls for a cult-film siren and discovers “a secret movie hidden in all the movies ever made.”

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As Erickson describes him, Vikar sounds like a cross between Chauncey Gardiner (slow, soft-spoken, inadvertently revolutionary) and Ignatius Riley (the blowhard hero of his own life story) — the sort of larger-than-life, dumb-luck lummox who could easily sustain his own movie. Only, Franco was the wrong person to play...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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