'Zoom': TIFF Review

Zoom Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A goofy, multilayered dive into body-image neuroses.

Gael Garcia Bernal is a filmmaker in a cartoon universe created by Alison Pill.

A silly loop-de-loop of metafictions, Pedro Morelli's Zoom envisions not one but three universes that fall apart, basically, because a woman is dissatisfied with her breasts. The Newsroom's Allison Pill is that woman, a cartoonist who sometimes takes her frustrations out on her fictional creations, who in turn are creating other worlds that may dictate Pill's own problems. And on it goes, in a spiral of increasingly lightweight crises that play out in both live action and comic book-style animation. Gael Garcia Bernal will help the Canadian/Brazilian production attract eyes at festivals, but despite its broad comedy, the picture may be a hard sell at the multiplex and need to content itself with a limited theatrical release.

Pill is Emma, who works by day in a small factory producing heavy-duty sex dolls. All those perfect plastic bodies, hanging on hooks around her, must have infected her mind, since — despite getting regular sexual attention from coworker Bob (Tyler Labine) — she is fixated on obtaining a superheroine-sized bosom. She does just that, thanks to an obliging plastic surgeon, but is almost immediately struck with buyers' remorse ... and learns to her chagrin that she can't afford to have her implants removed.

Angry and anatomy-fixated, Emma turns to pen and ink. Some time ago, she invented a fantasy boyfriend in comic-book form: Latin dreamboy Edward (Bernal), whose glamorous life shooting movies in Brazil is presented here via rotoscoped animation. Now Emma cuts him down to size, shrinking his manhood to Hedwigian proportions. Bernal's penile panic enlivens his facet of the film, but even in this flimsy reality we have a hard time believing the extent to which the production of his current film (an artsy, Brazil-set departure from his usual blockbusters) depends on his prowess in bed.

Zoom's third narrative is the plot of Edward's movie, in which a model named Michelle (Mariana Ximenes) has aspirations to become a novelist and heads to a beachside resort to write. In contrast with the conventional production values of the main section, this one is full of restlessly tilting Dutch angles and sun-bleached highlights. It's also the picture's weak link dramatically, but proves to the plot once we discover that Michelle's fits-and-starts writing is inventing the increasingly dopey things happening in Emma's world.

The hardworking Michael Eklund, an attention-getting supporting player in three TIFF films this year, figures into that action as a mustachioed eccentric who hires Emma to make a replica of his ex-wife. This doll becomes a drug mule in hijinks that put Emma and Bob in the crosshairs of gangsters, with each new action-comedy development serving as proof that the plot is being invented by third-generation fictional character.

There's no way for all this to resolve that isn't fairly absurd. But Morelli's light touch generally keeps the goofiness from becoming tiresome, especially given the help of some quirktronica compositions by Kid Koala on the soundtrack. These songs are especially helpful in the pic's most openly erotic moments, as tongue-in-cheek reminders that what we see is not being presented as reality, but as a fantasy of a fantasy who isn't quite sure what's sexy and what's just gratuitous enhancement.


Production companies: Rhombus Media, ?O2 Filmes

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alison Pill, Mariana Ximenes, Don McKellar, Tyler Labine, Jennifer Irwin, Jason Priestley, Michael Eklund

Director: Pedro Morelli

Screenwriter: Matt Hansen

Producers: Niv Fichman, Andrea Barata Riberio

Executive producers: Paulo Morelli, Fernando Meirelles

Director of photography: Adrian Teijido

Production designer: Elisa Sauve

Costume designer: Patrick Antosh

Editor: Lucas Gonzaga

Music: Kid Koala

Casting directors: Deirdre Bowen, Pam Dixon

Sales: WTFilms

No rating, 97 minutes