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Zoom Review: Silly, Sensational Film Demands to Be Discovered

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the age of video rental shops. In my movie-obsessed youth, I spent countless horrors pouring through the aisles again and again, seeking something strange and unique that would awe my friends as we sat huddled together in the enchanting glow of the television. Movie nights were best when we'd stumbled across an unloved gem, a forgotten treasure, a film that deserved better. Wistfully, I might lament that this time of analog intrigue is over, squelched by the infinitely informed Internet age. But then I found "Zoom."

Written by Matt Hansen and helmed by Pedro Morelli, this perplexingly under-the-radar film interweaves three radically different tales into one compelling and confounding mash-up of a movie. "Zoom" kicks off with a quirky crime-comedy starring "Scott Pilgrim vs The World"s Alison Pill as Emma, an aspiring comic book artist whose survival job is assembly at a sex doll factory. Unsatisfied with her looks, Emma aspires to get a boob job to make her as busty as those latex lust objects. But this leads her down a deranged path to theft, drug dealing, and crossing a cartoonishly smarmy mystery man.

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Meanwhile, Emma lives out fantasies of power and sexual allure through her comic creation Edward (Gael García Bernal), a hot director heralded for his explosion-heavy hits. His showbiz satire story is animated, reflecting Emma's sketchbook style, and is punctuated with color as things heat up. Desperate to show there's more to him than the Michael Bay-styled spectacle that built his buzz, Edward is making his Hollywood debut with a poignant art house drama about Michelle (Mariana Ximenes), a gorgeous Brazilian model with dreams of turning novelist. But his tender tale of self-discovery isn't what a shark of a studio exec desires. As troubles mount for the heroes, each takes out their anxieties and self-doubt on their work, creating a curious and captivating chain reaction that leads to salacious sexcapades, exhilarating escapes, a Mexican standoff like you've never seen before.

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"Zoom" is a riotous ride that refuses to take its genres or characters too seriously. Fearlessly lunging into the mind-bending premise's peculiar possibilities, Hansen's script offers something silly and uniquely sensational. Morelli's energetic direction smoothes the rough edges of genre collision. And the cast (which also boasts Tyler Labine, Don McKellar, and Jason Priestley in solid supporting turns) handles each abrupt shift in tone and genre with aplomb. Pill, in particular, is sprightly funny yet vulnerable.

As "Zoom" raced to its dizzying finale, I realized I had a big, goofy grin plastered across my face. The swirl of stories feed into each other, smudging the line between creator and created. Yet the inspirational flow of the threads holds up to scrutiny, as each hero possesses something another covets.

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This is something strange and unique. Jangly, fun, sexy, and surprising, "Zoom" is precisely the kind of movie you want to share with friends like a thrilling secret, and celebrate as a fresh discovery.

"Zoom" is out today in theaters and on VOD.

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