Posted: 03/30/2005

 

Chapter Zero

(1999)

by Dianne Lawrence




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In Chapter Zero, director Aaron Mendelsohn (Air Bud, A Change of Heart) takes us into the heart of darkness…a 30-year-old American man trapped in adolescence. Unfortunately it’s as annoying to experience in this film as it is in real life. We are pulled along from one dreary cliché to another, slowly giving up hope as we realize it just Won’t Stop until we get to the Big Lesson and Happy Ending.

Adam (Dylan Walsh) a tortured writer is facing the big Three-Oh and has nothing to show for it. Apparently a decent job in a publishing house, time to write, a cute doting girlfriend Jane (Laurel Holloman) and a killer pad on the canals isn’t enough. He figures by now he should have the Great American Delusion…the BIG house, kids, dog, gorgeous wife (not just a cute girlfriend) and a two-car garage. But more importantly by now he should have written and published the Great American Novel. So he sad sacks his time away at work hoping that his ball busting wet dream publisher boss (Penelope Miller) will give him a tumble AND publish his novel. All he gets when his big moment comes is a stiff rejection and a resulting descent into madness. This takes the form of the most excruciating act of narcissism ever seen on screen. Okay I’m exaggerating, Rocky 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 carries that honor but this is a close second. But wait! He comes out of it by writing the Great American Novel, betrays his girlfriend, is betrayed by the ball-busting publisher, learns that there are some things more important than the shark infested waters of Fame and Money and eventually comes to appreciate his trans-gendered father who really loves him. Actually this sounds like it could possibly make for some jolly fun, but no.

The film claims plenty of comedic “hijinks” but never transcends the occasional mild chuckle. The acting plays like the earnest work in an advanced scene class with the exception of Rus Blackwell as the transgender (?), transsexual (?) father. The generosity and patience he/she has for his/her ungrateful whiny son evoke a genuinely loving parent despite the red nail polish and clichéd flamboyance. As for the others I can’t figure out which is the greater culprit…. the dialogue or the actors. But with lines like “I am part of your life Adam, in good times and bad. We share them!! Don’t you understand?” I am leaning towards the dialogue.

Dianne Lawrence is a writer and painter in the Los Angeles area.



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