11 February 2015

Sundance 2015 Review - Zipper (2015)

Sundance 2015
Mora Stephens
Patrick Wilson, Richard Dreyfuss, Lena Headey, Ray Winstone, Dianna Agron, Elena Satine

Patrick Wilson is one of those guys who deserves the CV of a Hollywood heavy-weight but is often found in tier 2 dramatic ventures and cult-inspired blockbusters (The A-Team, Insidious), which is fine because he probably gets more interesting work that way. Zipper from Mora Stephens, is one of Wilson’s stand-out leading roles.

Think House of Cards meets Shame, as Wilson’s Sam Ellis dives into the murky waters of sex scandal whilst preparing to embark on a righteous career in Washington. It feels like a well-trodden story, but it’s told well enough to keep you interested. The whole film has a seedy vibe incurred partly by dwelling camera movements and partly by Wilson’s staunch portrait of the rabbit hole of addiction. Ellis is a man who is probably the only honest man in his field and we root for him, we want him to get higher so that he can do all the things he promises. Cut to Wilson chancing fate, time and time again, until he’s scrabbling for his last few dollars in a wild bid for a quickie. The film starts to feel like an elongated car crash, in a good way, tearing towards a brutal moment of discovery. But Stephens doesn’t meddle with the narrative to side us one way or another, Ellis’ behaviour is ultimately a total mystery to us.

Lena Heady is great but her increasing involvement in the political side seems oddly placed and detracts from the message. At one point it’s about addiction and sex, then it’s about the effects of power, then it’s about how shitty and promiscuous people are when they want something. The comment on powerful white men is perhaps tampered with. It’s a kind of mixed platter of adultery and addiction. Zipper does however regain some focus in its last 5 minutes to depart on a disturbing yet poetic note.

Feels a bit run-of-the-mill, but has a real honesty at its heart and a terrific performance from Patrick Wilson. A worthwhile political thriller.

Scott Clark

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