Review: Zero Charisma
PLOT: Scott (Sam Eidson) is a dedicated table-top RPG fan. In fact, he's such a fan that he's unable to hold down anything but a dead-end job, while living at home with his cantankerous grandmother (Anne Gee Byrd) and dominating his gamer friends at their thrice-weekly marathon gaming sessions. There, Scott is the “game-master”, but his world is shaken up when the game is joined by Miles (Garrett Graham), a handsome, well-adjusted hipster nerd, who quickly wins over Scott's friends with his charm, threatening the one thing in his life that Scott truly feels is under his control.
REVIEW: It's ironic that Nerdist Industries- which puts out one of the net's best fanboy podcasts and is now going into the film distribution business- has chosen ZERO CHARISMA to be their first release. That's because if the protagonist in ZERO CHARISMA, Scott, ever met any of The Nerdist's hosts, especially Chris Hardwick, he'd probably have a coronary, as they embody everything he hates (i.e- they're successful and presumably nice). A lot of us proudly call ourselves geeks and nerds. Many of us were ridiculed using those terms in school, but now, being a fanboy or fangirl has become relatively hip. Just as long as you're the right kind of fan. ZERO CHARISMA's Scott is the wrong kind.
ZERO CHARISMA is like TAXI DRIVER for fanboys. Scott, brilliantly played by Sam Eidson, is the fanboy nightmare come to life. He's so wrapped up in his fantasy-world obsessions, mostly centred around an Dungeons & Dragons style game of his own invention, that he's not only socially awkward, but he's almost a sociopath. A lot of us get wrapped up in fandom. I'm a gigantic James Bond fan, with a poster for each of the 007's decorating my apartment (including a huge, framed Roger Moore one at the door). Scott is on a whole other level. He's like one of those people that cruises around the net trolling the talkbacks from site-to-site, becoming enraged when someone dares to disagree with them about the genre or franchise they're obsessed with. Fantasy is fun, but everything in moderation, and no matter how much you love a movie, or comic book character, they can't rule your life- lest you end up like Scott.
He's probably the most singularity unappealing, nightmarish fanboy you could possibly imagine. Scott isn't just ill at ease dealing with people, but he genuinely seems to hate everyone, even his role-playing friends. To him, they're only good as long as they play his RPG. He couldn't care less about their well-being (when one complains that his wife is going to leave him, Scott, who's never been on a date, couldn't care less). The same goes for his family. His sharp-tongued grandmother supports him, but he seems to barely tolerate her as well, demanding that she either leave her own house, or stay in her room whenever he has a game night. Sure, Scott's had some pain in his life, having been abandoned by his selfish, flaky mother, but he's not just a geek. He's an asshole. He's the Travis Bickle of fanboys, although Eidson is still able to somehow generate some sympathy for the guy.
Compare him to his nemesis Miles, played by Graham. A handsome hipster with a gorgeous, kindly girlfriend (Katie Folger), he's everything Scott hates, being a “tourist” who doesn't obsess over pop-culture to the detriment of everything else. The rest of Scott's friends, who are just as socially awkward, but a lot nicer, are immediately in awe of the guy, who even dares to show up at a game with a six-pack of beer (Scott's child-like group only drinks sugary soft-drinks) and treat the game as something that- god forbid- is supposed to be fun.
Directed by Austin filmmakers Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews, ZERO CHARISMA is likely going to become a much talked-about film among the fanboys once it hits theaters and VOD. It's an often unflattering depiction of fan obsession, but it's also a frequently funny and entertaining one. It's an almost perfect little indie, although I take issue with the decision late in the film to undercut the Miles character by ultimately making him a bit of a jerk. That aside, it's an often brilliant study of fandom, and the way many of us allow ourselves to invest too heavily in something that's only real purpose is to be fun. For anyone that's maybe gone a little overboard in our fan obsessions, ZERO CHARISMA is a good reality-check, and a must see.
|Extra Tidbit:||Gotta love The Nerdist Podcast.|