Chapter Zero (1999)

R   |    |  Comedy


Chapter Zero (1999) Poster

A novelist examines his life and ambition when his world is turned upside down by a sultry publisher.


5.2/10
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15 December 2009 | rsoonsa
5
| In Order To Extract Anything Worth Retaining Here, One Must Evade An Embargo Placed Upon Storyline Logic.
Opening action for this comedrama utilises a voice-over from Adam Lazaras (Dylan Walsh), a 30 year-old writer who states that "This is a story about a story", referring to his first novel, and it is, in reality, a narrative dealing with a work in progress, congruous in the event, for a film that seems correspondingly incomplete, since it provides a good deal more of background detail than it does a coherent plot. The opening credits are backdropped by a montage of home movies taken of Walsh during his early years, a device that has become a particularly stale cinematic cliché, and a portent to viewers that bromides may abound midst the scenario and this indeed becomes so, as the plotted behaviour of the various principal characters is often somewhat less than convincing. Lazaras is employed as a copy editor and ghostwriter at a prominent publishing house ("Larabee") that is managed by the daughter of the company's owner, Cassandra (Penelope Ann Miller) who rejects Adam's manuscript, thereby thrusting him into a state of depression, underlined when he destroys the fateful manuscript in addition to a laptop computer upon which he had created it, therewith frustrating any possible attempt to restore a text that is clearly a far from engaging tale of romantic love: "Cold Summer", curiously set in 1900 Saskatchewan. Torn between vainglory and abnegation, Adam borrows his patient live-in girlfriend Jane's video camera (she is studying to be a cinema documentarian), visually recording his primary personal revelations, rampant with guilt and regret over sundry shortcomings, then later writing this grim material (with pencil) in the form of another full-length manuscript that he again destroys to thwart his somehow being published. However, Jane (Laurel Holloman) loyally believes in his ability as a novelist and, having surreptitiously copied this second opus, submits it to a small publisher for consideration, without Adam's knowledge. This independent firm agrees to publish the piece, an action that brings a reaction from Cassandra, who now also wants it for the Larabee catalogue, positing that a writer's most marketable output results from anguish, and that Adam's relentlessly dreary and boring journal that records his blunders will undoubtedly be the "voice of his generation". The novel includes unsavoury details concerning his immediate family that Adam, much to the delight of publicity canny Cassandra, refuses to ignore, such as crossdressing proclivities of his father and adopted brother. It additionally reveals the low self-esteem of Adam as he ridicules his brother's bourgeois material success. Jane, meanwhile, plainly wishes to regain possession of her video camera, necessary to complete her film school project, a narrative depicting a local ecological activist (Lee Majors) as he wages a solitary battle against human generated canal pollution in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the film's action is shot. This venue, home base for the picture's producer, home builder Tony DiTocco, is one of the few original aspects of an essentially lightweight film that provides few inventive touches, offering instead a surfeit of low-level attempts at humour, notably jejune essays at slapstick. Among these latter are such grotesquerie as an embarrassing Miller misfire essay at a parody of the 1962 Marilyn Monroe "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" performance, with some quaint casting for the crossdressing/transvestite roles that simply become examples of tawdriness in action. Despite this work's showcasing of an overdrawn, self-pitying novelist and the commented upon challenge to a viewer's taste threshold, there is a well scripted character, Jane, who is nonetheless defeated by the scenario's plague of contradictions. The film has been released upon an MTI DVD that provides fine video and audio quality. Unfortunately, also on display is a bit of bungling in its packaging. Although Lazaras is so identified upon his manuscript a well as in the closing credits, the name is spelled as "Lazarus" on a DVD case that also lists an extra feature of a director's commentary that does not exist. Among actual features are a useless (with no sense of entertainment) wandering videocam tour, conducted by the director of his crew at work, that catches no feeling of a film in the making, and a gallery of still photographs. The movie is available in full screen format only.

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Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Comedy

Box Office

Budget:

$1,500,000 (estimated)

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