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Zero Charisma

Zero Charisma

What She said:

She

Have you ever heard of the film Zero Charisma?  Yeah, neither had I, but The He, who is closely linked to all things “nerd,” had an inkling on this one, and devoid of anything better to watch, we decided to give it a chance.  While the film is somewhat depressing, and truly has no real protagonist to cheer for, it actually is a fairly interesting watch.

Zero Charisma follows a group of super-nerds.  These fellas are so nerdy that they don’t even indulge in video games.  No, no, that’s beneath them.  Instead, under the leadership of head nerd, Scott Weidenmeyer, the hodge-podge of nobodies spend their free time playing role playing board games.  These are the types of games that actually have no clear formula.  You, the player, create the storyline, and you establish the rules.  Scott is the Gamemaster.  He’s basically the man with all the big ideas, and interprets how the game unfolds.  He takes this role very seriously, too seriously in fact.  He looks down upon most others, who pale in comparison to his pure genius, or so he thinks. 

In reality, it’s clear that Scott does not have it all together.  Fella may be the Gamemaster, but he’s also living at home with his grandmother and working in the food service industry.  He used to have a pretty decent job at a local gaming store, but he was fired and had a falling out with management.  Scott believes that the world is against him and nothing in his life is his fault.  He asserts his power over his group of close friends as the meet up weekly for their gaming session.  But one of his players ends up finding a girl, and decides to leave the group.  Scott, scrambling to find a replacement, recruits a hipster nerd, Miles. 

Miles pretty much embodies everything that Scott despises.  He’s charismatic, easy to talk to, and is a successful comic book creator and blogger.  Miles also has a pretty girlfriend and a cool apartment.  It should come as no surprise that Scott’s friends quickly fall in love with Miles and all that he represents—the successful mainstreaming of nerdiness within our culture.  They latch on to Miles and turn against Scott, which is fed by Scott’s rampant jealousy and immature behavior.  In the meantime, Scott’s estranged mother shows up and tries to talk his grandmother into selling her house and retiring to a community.  Scott knows he’s about to be left high and dry.  His life is falling apart, and the stress has caused him to reach a boiling point.  Scott must therefore reassess what is really important to him, and what it means to be a true friend.

Zero Charisma

So yeah, Scott is not exactly a good guy, but he’s our main character and we’re stuck with him.  He’s whiny, immature, and self-absorbed.  But these are all defense mechanisms to cover his insecurities.  Miles is his nemesis in the true sense of the word, and it’s fascinating and comical to watch the two interact.  This movie works best with viewers who are well aware of the stereotypes at play here, and can therefore understand all the inside jokes presented on screen.

The characters are the story in this movie.  Don’t expect any spectacular camera work, or mindblowing acting.  In fact, you likely will not recognize a single actor in this film.  And some of them are not particularly good.  But I found the film interesting in the relationships that it presented to viewers and how these were challenged and changed throughout the movie.  There’s really not much else to this film.  It’s not meta, it’s not groundbreaking, but it is a decent watch.  I found it relatively fascinating and altogether painless, which is always a plus.

Thumbs mostly up.

What He said:

He
Zero Charisma

Scott (Sam Edison) is a game master. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s the guy calling the shots in a role-playing game. For those of you who don’t know what a role-playing game is, it’s basically a longer, sometimes never-ending, version of a board game that usually involves knights, wizards, dragons, and all that kind of stuff you’d see in a fantasy story. Oh yeah, and there’s dice, a lot of dice. So anyway, the game master serves as a storyteller. He sets the tone, creates the environments and situations the players face during their journeys, and makes sure everyone is playing fairly (or at least he’s supposed to).
You might be asking why didn’t I mention what Scott does for a living, is married or not, has kids , or where he lives? Well that’s because his gaming is what Scott lives for, everything else is secondary. As a result, he has something of a god complex. He doesn’t just boss his friends around during the game, but tries to control other aspects of their life as well; usually because he’s trying to put the game first. But if you must know, Scott is a delivery guy for a restaurant, has never had a girlfriend – and is adamant about not wanting one – and lives with his grandmother.

One evening while gathering for their weekly game, one of the players drops out. Scott is not happy. Apparently the game can’t continue without replacing the guy who left. I guess it’s like poker and you need a certain amount of players?
After several failed attempts, Scott finds a replacement. While at the local role-playing game store one day, Scott meets a guy named Miles (Garret Graham) who says he used to play and was thinking about starting up again. Miles  could be classified as a hipster. He’s a nerd and likes nerdy things, but he’s also too cool for school. He enjoys playing, but doesn’t take the game as seriously as Scott. He often interrupts Scott’s storytelling with a joke – which greatly annoys Scott – and worst of all…he brings beer to the games! These are all big no-no’s as far as Scott is concerned, and to make matters worse, his friends take a liking to Miles.

Miles eventually becomes Scott’s nemesis. Miles is the anti-Scott. He likes geeky things, but yet somehow manages to be cool. He drinks beer, runs a successful website – about movies and other things nerds love – and has a girlfriend. It’s safe to say there’s some jealousy going on here.

As a nerd, and some who has even just dabbled in this kind of stuff, I can tell you the portrayal of people who play regularly is eerily accurate. I remember the first couple of times I went into one of those stores and it was a riot. When you aren’t familiar with that kind of stuff, the guys who work and hang out in those stores sniff you out like a predator does its prey. I give the employees credit though because they were welcoming and even let me play a little bit. They sat me down, set me up with a scenario, and let me experience a “mission”.  And yes he was kind enough to narrate the game for me. The whole thing was hilarious, but I did have fun. The only downside is they were definitely a little cliquey and judgmental. The one time I went, I drug the She along, and the one guy kept asking her if she was bored and would rather be shoe shopping. It was his awkward way to break the ice, but it got old after he did it about three times. So, even as a total novice to the role-playing game world, I could relate to that aspect of it. It was also pretty damn funny too. These guys are…well they’re different.

Zero Charisma

So when somebody like Miles comes into their lives, it rocks their world. Some of them, like Scott, are jealous and threatened. Others, like the rest of his friends, think they’ve found a new hero. But there might be more to Miles than what he shows the guys; or at least that’s what Scott thinks. He is convinced that Miles is hiding something and possibly even using the guys.

This movie is pretty damn funny at times. It had a little bit of depth too. During the course of the movie, we get to learn a little bit more about why Scott is so bossy and miserable. It pretty much nailed the role-playing game world too. This is a small independent project and I had no idea what to expect from it. I was generally pleased with it. My only complaint is that I didn’t know who the hell to root for. Scott is the protagonist, but he’s an ass hole. Miles is definitely Scott’s antagonist, but it’s not like you’re rooting for him just because he drives Scott nuts. He’s funny and way more easygoing than Scott, but he’s not exactly likeable either. As much as a jerk as Scott can be, Miles does unnecessarily rag on him at times, so you’re not exactly rooting for him either. The climax of their rivalry is kind of confusing. You’re not sure who “wins” or if anyone has learned anything at all. Scott’s family isn’t the most likeable bunch either. His mom is a total flake. His grandmother is more likeable, but sides with her flake of a daughter more than Scott, who is the one who lives with and takes care of her, so you feel bad for Scott despite the fact you unlike him. The movie is funny, but the plot is a little unsatisfying at times. I would definitely recommend it, but expect to be a little baffled by the plot, particularly later in the movie.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on May 13, 2014.

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