Sunday, May 23, 2010

More than Zero

Back to the theme of movies I saw on a plane that I wanted to re-watch with my wife: Seeing Sherlock Holmes put me in the mood to show Zero Effect to Mrs. Spenser.

This little-known 1998 film stars Ben Stiller as a kind of anti-Watson to detective Daryl Zero, played by Bill Pullman. Like Holmes, Zero is brilliant, all-knowing, all-deducing. He is also a master of disguise, and, when not on a case, indulges in narcotic stimulants and bad music. Unlike Holmes, however, he never allows his clients to meet him or talk to him. His only communication is through Stiller.

Stiller meets with a wealthy client in Portland, played with great sketchiness by Ryan O'Neal, who has lost his keys. Of course, it goes on from there. Soon Zero has come in disguise to scope out the scene, meets this cute girl, and I've said too much already (Irene Adler!).

This movie was produced/directed by the Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, and you can kind of tell that it was made by the offspring of someone rich, famous or powerful. It seems exactly like the film that someone wanted to make, without the compromises you get in a committee-made film. It reminds me a lot of Love at Large:
  • It's a mystery, but mostly a romantic comedy
  • It's set in Portland (and doesn't pretend to be Boston or some other city)
  • One has a Leonard Cohen song, the other Nick Cave
Anyway, they are both "small" films - not blockbusters, but not straight to video crap. Stories someone wanted to tell, told well. I found it fun and moving, then moved on. In the studio days, there were hundreds of movies like this made every year. Now, not so much.

In conclusion, note that I referred to Zero by his character name. Mostly, in this blog, I use the actor's name, partly because I can't be bothered to remember the character's, partly so you don't have to match up character and actor. But here, I felt that Pullman submerged himself in the role, really became Daryl Zero, man of many faces. Well done.

1 comment:

mr. schprock said...

It's in the queue!