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As the strict Game Master of a fantasy role-playing game, Scott (Sam Eldson) leads his friends in a weekly quest through mysterious lands from the safety of his grandmother s kitchen. But his mastery of his own domain starts to slip along with everything else in his life when cool new guy Miles (Garrett Graham) joins the game, quickly winning over the group with his confident charm. When Scott is finally dethroned by an unexpected coup, he realizes he must roll the dice and risk everything to expose Miles as the fraud he believes him to be. A darkly comedic fable of epic proportions, ZERO CHARISMA is an ode to nerds from every realm.
. . . a consistently entertaining, character-driven comedy . . . --Variety
Raw and affecting . . . a breakthrough in the portrayal of geek culture on film. --Village Voice
Fascinating . . . A compelling portrait. 'Clerks' meets 'Curb Your Enthusiasm. --Indiewire
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Scott is the product of what is implied as two generations of familial dysfunction. From his youth, he has felt the victim of fate as he is abandoned by his mother and his life turns sour; this nugget of character information is essential to understanding Scott's perspective of his game. GMing is the only thing that he feels he has any control over. His biggest character flaw, his unbridled rage, stems from his frustration toward his utter lack of control over anything else in his life. When Miles undermines the sturdiest aspect of his life (his game), Scott has nothing left; his fit of rage is as much an act of frustration as a cry for help. Scott's monologue as he drives to Miles' house in the latter part of the film is the focal point of Scott's entire struggle through life: his friends, his mother, his former co-workers, everyone in his life looks down on him because of his less-than-photogenic appearance and less-than-amiable personality, oftentimes treating him like garbage and taking him for granted (or taking advantage of him). The people in Scott's life prompt him to employ the callous persona that he wears for the majority of the film, as at seemingly every turn, whenever Scott tries to make himself appear worthy of even a modicum of praise/respect/etc., he is blocked, shot down, undermined, and/or ridiculed.
Suffice it to say, despite several of the complaints this film has generated, it is Scott's tragedy and not his abuse of tabletop gaming and his less-than-ideal treatment of his friends that is the focus of the story; rather, fantasy gaming is but the backdrop for a social pariah's attempt to make sense of and his way through a merciless, unforgiving world, and get a handle on a life that's been against him since his youth.
Don't expect a laughfest, or insight that hits too close to home to be comfortable about "geek" like. This is a movie about the failings and tragedy of one man. The references to gamer culture are minimal, and serve a means to an end, not a means unto itself. That being said, I found it be a compelling 90 minutes.
I thought they could have done more with the betrayal of Miles and the redemption of Scott. Maybe there is no redemption for Scott, as he ends similar to where be began, with a life centered around a mostly captive gaming group. The movie did do a good job of making me despise Miles.
What's up with nerdy white guys being named Wayne? Goodness. Speaking of Wayne, I found the pimple popping/sex scene to be extremely odd. Not sure what it did for the film, other than pointing out how strange Scott is (something that was done in spades already).
The relationship between Scott and Kendra was strange. At first endearing, with her reading his hand, then combative with her calling him out on fudging a die roll, then empathetic to his suffering. She was clearly the emotional foil. There was some imagery at play when she took his lone glove off - perhaps like a lion having a thorn removed? - but it was lost and forgotten about later.
The problems that Scott had in his gaming group (attendance, locale, reliable partners, control, etc.) are pretty basic things that every Dungeon Master faces. I think the better avenue for conflict would have been in the shared narrative control, which we saw parts of when Miles sworded the keeper of the stones and the first session where the players were generally uninterested in what Scott had to say.
All in all, any movie that brings to bear the true depravity of Hipsterdom is a good thing.
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Zero Charisma is a movie that actually, has a lot of charisma.Read more