Fantastic Fest 2015: Zoom

Body image and identity crises in an M.C. Escher world

How to describe the twisting, cyclical unraveling of director Pedro Morelli’s and screenwriter Matt Hansen’s astute, funny, and wonderfully shot (by DP Adrian Teijido) animated film?

Zoom (Photo Courtesy of Fantastic Fest)

Well, mostly shot: Roughly one-third of Zoom is rotoscope animation. During the post-screening Q&A, Morelli gave a shout-out to Richard Linklater’s influential Waking Life, and Zoom, while tackling the existential from a somewhat more fantastic direction, owes an obvious debt to Linklater’s 2001 foray into rotoscoped head-trippery.

A triptych of quirkily comic storylines begin as separate entities before quickly and vertiginously commingling into one exhilarating and emotionally majestic endgame. Allison Pill (Cooties, The Newsroom) is Emma, a budding graphic novelist whose day job consists of assembling anatomically accurate sex dolls with co-worker-cum-lunchbreak-lover Bob (Tyler Labine in his best comedic performance since 2010’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil). Alas, she feels her smallish (aka “normal”) breasts are holding her back in her quest for the man of her dreams, so she has them enlarged to Tura Satan-ic proportions, with seriocomic results. That’s the first – and best – of the three strands of storyline.

The second strand centers around Edward (Gael Garcia Bernal), an action-movie director attempting to elevate his CV by shooting a heartfelt, arthouse film. He also happens to be Emma’s masculine ideal. His rotoscoped sequences are bursting with vivid pinks, purples, and all the colors of passionate, sexy creation, but an unfortunate erasure leaves this former film-set Casanova with a minuscule penis, emasculating him both literally and figuratively.

Finally, there’s Mariana Ximenes’s Michelle, a fashion model who yearns to become a serious novelist. She’s introduced in a disturbing photo-shoot scene where the photographer stridently urges her to be “all women, no woman,” and finally “Nothing! You’re nothing!” Boyfriend and full-time jerk-wad Jason Priestley is fed up with Michelle’s literary endeavors, so she high-tails it back to her native Brazil and isolates herself in a seaside cabin, writing, drinking, and possibly even falling in love. It’s via the writing process that she discovers her true self.

Morelli cleverly interlocks this trio by constantly zooming out of one storyline and into the next (hence the film’s title), a captivating stylistic device that allows the disparate characters to ultimately connect with each other, even though they’re all in separate realities. Or are they? Reality is notoriously subjective, and Matt Hansen’s intricately crafted and occasionally disorienting script makes for some truly self-reflexive, meta-filmmaking. Zoom expertly explores multiple serious themes under the guise of comedy. Female body issues and male body horror (the incredible shrinking penis!) are at the fore, with art versus commerce and the questioning of individual identity running neck and neck. Zoom is a disconcerting and droll inquiry into itself, actually. Fans of Charlie Kaufman and the late, great David Foster Wallace will be overjoyed at Morelli and Hansen’s seemingly infinite jest.

Zoom screens again Monday, Sept. 28, 2:15pm.

For more Fantastic Fest news, reviews, and interviews, follow all our updates at

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Fantastic Fest 2015, Zoom, Alison Pill, Gael Garcia Bernal

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