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Other // R // September 29, 2015
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted October 31, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Sam Ellis (Patrick Wilson) is a prosecutor with "District Attorney" written all over him, especially having just closed a big political corruption case. He is known as a family man with a strong moral compass, but remains relatable and warm, thanks to his charm and that slight southern twang in his voice. He has a lovely wife, Jeannie, who quit her job as a prosecutor in order to raise their child, never questions his hours, and even helps get him a profile by influential writer Nigel Coaker (Ray Winstone), an old friend of hers. With everything going for him, there's absolutely no reason that Sam, set off by the advances of a co-worker and a case involving an escort, should want to start sleeping with high-class hookers on the weekends, yet, he falls into it like one might fall into a coke habit, practically breaking into cold withdrawal sweats when he's not getting off.

Zipper feels tantalizingly close to being a good movie, but like the sexual pleasure Sam is getting from numerous women, the experience is hollow inside. The film brings together a number of elements that all look like they should fit together into a clockwork kind of puzzle that is both dramatic and wryly funny, but director and co-writer Mora Stephens doesn't quite have the deftness required to form them into a cohesive picture, even with as strong of a lead performance as she gets from Patrick Wilson here.

For the first twenty minutes, watching the movie is frustrating, because Stephens doesn't make it clear that the viewer isn't meant to sympathize with Sam as he becomes intrigued and finally sets up a date with one of the women on an escort website. While she and co-writer Joe Viertel take the time to include a scene where Jeannie seems to be interested in having sex and Sam declining, they spend twice as much time on Sam's hemming and hawing about taking the next step, first looking up the website, then digging a little further, buying a burner cell phone, setting up a date, and finally, sleeping with Christy (Alexandra Breckinridge), which he insists afterward is a one-time thing. Drawing out the process would seem to suggest he's wrestling with himself, but it's so obvious that what he's doing is wrong and selfish that sitting through it is tedious. It's only after he becomes completely addicted that it's clear Stephens is more empathetic than sympathetic, observing a man that is falling apart.

Part of this can be attributed to Wilson, who manages to exude such a nobility and sincerity that it becomes genuinely annoying that he can't stop himself from making the wrong decision. As the story develops, so does Wilson's performance, with a desperation and anxiety creeping in that weakens the charm. At his lowest point, in one of the film's best scenes, he sits with one of the escorts (Penelope Mitchell) and has a genuinely emotional conversation, touching on something sincere...only for him to end their meeting by thrusting the rest of the money in his wallet at her for a quickie right there, in his car, in some deserted parking garage. While it's frequently hard to believe a lawyer would do some of the things that Sam does, which seem to be leaving a pretty obvious "paper trail" for anyone to pull up (especially given his intent to run in a local election), Wilson keeps the film as steady as he can, remaining consistent even when the screenplay's qualities ebb and flow.

Upon arriving in the home stretch, the film becomes especially muddled, developing Jeannie into more of a character at the last minute instead of properly building it up throughout the movie. Using Jeannie, Coaker, and a campaign manager named George Hiller (Richard Dreyfuss), the film takes its political subplot and suddenly brings it center stage, and in the process makes it very unclear what it is the viewer's supposed to be focusing on. Zipper is intended to be a film about infidelity, morals, and politics, but instead of weaving all three strands together, the elements pile up in a three-way accident at the end, after the viewer's been riding shotgun with morals for the first 70 minutes. In the film's final scene, the word "donation" leaps off the screen, clearly positioned as the final blow in what is envisioned as a scathing comic indictment. Throughout the film, Stephens plays with the focus, leaving characters who are speaking or seemingly central to the scene blurry while resolving on a secondary character in the background. While it's an interesting choice, it speaks to the film's problem: what it is that Stephens actually means to say remains vague and inconclusive, while the rest of the movie sharply observes a cynicism aimed at nothing in particular.

The Blu-ray
Zipper arrives with a matte cardboard slipcover featuring glossy highlights for the Blu-ray banner across the top and the colored panels that make up the front cover. The art plays up Dianna Agron's part in the movie on both the front and back covers despite her minimal appearance in the film -- it'd make more sense to have put Winstone, Dreyfuss, Mitchell, or Breckinridge on the cover instead. The single-disc release comes in a standard Viva Elite Blu-ray case with no insert, and identical sleeve art.

The Video and Audio
Zipper gets a fine but unremarkable 2.39:1 1080p AVC and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 presentation from Alchemy. This is a digitally-shot movie made in 2014, so there's not much technically that could go wrong with the Blu-ray's presentation of the movie's slightly muted appearance. Some of the early scenes in the film have a little warmth, especially inside Sam's house, but the film generally tends toward the cooler blues and grays. Fine detail is very strong, and no significant issues with banding or artifacts interrupt the quality of the image. Sound is mostly about dialogue, although there are occasional crowd scenes or intense moments score-wise to liven things up a bit. In any case, there's really nothing wrong (or remarkable) about the way the movie looks or sounds. English captions for the hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Although the packaging for the disc makes no mention of bonus features, there are two for the movie. An audio commentary by director Mora Stephens this is a low-key but very informative commentary. Stephens talks more from the perspective of a writer than that of a director, discussing the motivation behind the story and the characters, and what she was intending to do with them. Sources include real-life stories (many critics mentioned Spitzer, but she mentions several people, including Bill Clinton), as well as details from her own life relating to the Sam character's addiction. There is also a reel of deleted scenes (11:32), with optional commentary by Stephens. These may help explain why Agron is so prominently featured on the packaging, as there is another short but significant scene with her character is included here. More importantly, there's a montage that feels as if it explains a bit more about what the film's up to than much of what's still in it, contrasting a complex campaign meeting with a scene of Sam unsuccessfully trying to pleasure himself. Finally, there is a scene that mistakenly seems to give the movie a bit of heart -- wisely edited, but speaks to the script's sprawl.

Trailers for The Runner, Fading Gigolo, Welcome to Me, People, Places, Things, and Strangerland play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Zipper can also be found, with these individual trailers, in the special features section under "Previews."

Zipper can't quite close in on what specifically it's trying to say, bringing together elements that feel as if they're meant to make a statement and then never quite connecting the dots. The film features a very strong performance by actor Patrick Wilson, but without a script that supports that performance, it feels as if it's somewhat in vain. Rent it.

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