Zero stars: is James Franco’s starry Zeroville the worst film of 2019?
The actor-writer-directors adaptation of Steve Ericksons 2007 book on 70s Hollywood is a film of staggering incompetence
All things considered, March 2011 was a pretty good month for James Franco. Years before the unseemly scandals that have since marred his career, he enjoyed the level of industry cachet befitting a young talent coming off their first Oscar nomination (even if theyd really bit the big one in their capacity as co-host). Perhaps Franco was feeling creatively emboldened by recent dabbling in novels and multimedia when he decided to take on a new challenge in his fledgling vocation of directing. Franco purchased the rights to Zeroville, an acclaimed and reputedly dense novel wending a noir-influenced path through New Hollywood, with the intention of making his most ambitious feature film yet.
He would tackle a few more high-minded literary adaptations Cormac McCarthys Child of God, William Faulkners As I Lay Dying as well as The Sound and the Fury before stepping up to the plate to begin principal photography in 2014. Assembling a cast of his most trusted friends and collaborators, a star-studded lineup including Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Megan Fox, and his dear brother Dave, he completed what must have felt at the time like something close to a masterpiece. The receptions to Francos directorial efforts had historically been mixed, but this would establish him as a name to be taken seriously beyond all measure of a doubt.
Five years and several personal and professional calamities later, Francos Zeroville made its theatrical debut on one screen in one theater in New York. This critic attended the 5pm showtime on opening day at the Cinepolis Chelsea, which stopped showing the film after a few sparsely attended days. Nobody else showed up to that screening, and though two theaters in Los Angeles continue to run the latest film du Franco, it looks like just about everyone will miss what has to be the single worst film of the year.
Francos would-be magnum opus spent the last-half decade floating around in limbo, due in part to the original distributor Alchemy filing for bankruptcy in 2016, and due in part because nobody else wanted to adopt this orphaned bomb once it was up for grabs again. It was re-purchased in April of 2019 by myCinema, a small Swiss outfit established last year, and ignominiously shuffled through a grand total of three theaters before being put out to pasture. Its an unceremonious fate for what may have at one point resembled the proper arrival of a new major auteur, and yet utterly deserved for a work of such staggering incompetence.
Franco pairs his A-lister resources with a sub-undergraduate mastery of the form for a work of rarefied and powerful badness, in which a bustling recreation of anything-goes Tinseltown turns into a playset for Francos juvenile, experimental monkeying-around. He portrays a man known as Vikar, a cipher of an architect (hes really a carpenter, like Jesus Christ, in the sort of wispy thematic connection this film tends to favor) new to Los Angeles, with no background or memory or any interiority whatsoever save his scalp tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor taken from A Place in the Sun. Whenever anyone remarks on it, he sullenly mumbles, I believe it is a very good movie. Research into Steve Ericksons original text reveals that the character is supposed to be borderline autistic, a notion that Francos performance engages with for the most part unwittingly, like a dysfunctional comedy film funny for all the wrong reasons.
Vikar falls in with a colorful coterie of stand-ins for real-life figures as well as party-entertainment-quality impersonators of the actual big names, both of which enable Franco to show off an entry-level cinephilia unimpressive to anyone whos ever uttered the words movie buff. Vikar stumbles into a swinging house party where a gaggle of famous film-makers sit in a circle and discuss their upcoming works of genius. Steven Spielberg wants to make a movie about a shark! Could he be referring to Jaws? Later, Franco sticks Rogens blowhard screenwriter character (based on John Milius) in the background of the Apocalypse Now set, where the guy can reaffirm the mythology of unchecked insanity in the jungle for the umpteenth time. Ericksons novel revolved around the effort to look through movie obsession to find the fragile pathology that undergirds it; Francos adaptation feels much comfier basking in what its supposed to be picking apart.
Hi my name is Kareem Maize and welcome to my personal blog. I am 26 year old musician and information technology professional with a passion for learning new aspects of life everyday. On my journey to express myself I began blogging to share my ideas with others. Now I intend to write fun, interesting, and engaging content for my viewers to help them grow spiritually, physically, and mentally . The concept of belief systems and the law of attraction peak my interest!!! I believe blogging about my personal experiences, beliefs, and ideas is the best way to achieve these goals!!!