REVIEW: Zero Motivation

13 01 2015

Zero MotivationAt the Tribeca Film Festival, “Zero Motivation” won the Nora Ephron prize, which honors distinctive female voices in filmmaking.  Were the great humorist alive today, it is hard to imagine her not getting a giddy kick out of the film.  Israeli writer/director Talya Lavie possesses the knack for a droll wit that would definitely tickle Ephron’s funny bone.

The Israel Defense Forces, which requires two years of service from all females of age, is not so much the subject of the film as it is the setting.  This is not a film about violence, war, or militarism.  “Zero Motivation” is about the challenges women face in their everyday battlefields: their romances, their friendships, and their workplaces.  Sadly, the women face a battle for respectability in them all.

The closest the women in the film come to combat is hitting a mine on their pre-installed copy of Minesweeper.   More than anything, “Zero Motivation” recalls the desktop drudgery of television’s “The Office.”  And, to boot, Jim Halpert would get some mad inspiration out of their outlandish pranks. Lavie deploys other humor styles throughout the film, including some very clever and expertly timed sight gags in a scene of half-joking suicide attempts.  She even manages to pulls off what seems like an impossible feat – making a joke about the Holocaust (besides the mean “Anne Frank-ly” line).

At times, “Zero Motivation” does feel like binge watching three episodes of a sitcom rather than a single, unified film.  But with the patterns of media consumption changing as rapidly as they are, that hardly even feels like a criticism anymore.  While her work might not be perfect, the world needs filmmakers like Lavie who are not afraid to put men in their place or call out a gendered double standard when they see one.  B2halfstars

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