Zipper is a tense, riveting film about “male privilege.” Patrick Wilson plays a prosecutor who has risen to the top of his local queue and is now under consideration for high political office. But when a new witness in an ongoing investigation offers him a peek into the world of high-priced “escorts,” his well-ordered world suddenly turns upside down.
Zipper was directed by Mora Stephens. She also co-wrote the screenplay in collaboration with Joel Viertel. Brava! (JLH: 4/5)
Review by FF2 Media Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner
Nothing makes my day–when in film critic mode–like walking into a film with relatively low expectations, then coming out shouting “WOW!”
Ads for Zipper lead you to believe it is a story about sexual addiction, but in truth it’s about something much more widespread and insidious, something which has just been diagnosed in the new classic Phishing for Phools by Nobel Prize-winning Economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller.
TRUE CONFESSIONS: MORE PHOOL ME
Here is a recent example from my own life: Just before the start of the Jewish High Holidays, I went onto Etsy.com to look for jewelry. I had a new dress that I wanted to wear on Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year), so I went onto Etsy.com and entered: “Jewish Star + Brooch.” Etsy immediately returned about a dozen options, one of which was perfect for my new dress. So I bought it, and then I also bought two more to “freshen up” other outfits already in my closet. None of them were expensive, so hey, why not?
But when I went to my “shopping cart” to check out, Etsy threw a new handful of “Jan Candy” my way = other items that had nothing whatsoever to do with Jewish Jewelry, but everything to do with totally unrelated purchases that I had made on other sites in the past. Blinded by the blizzard, I ended up buying several other things that morning…
And then every day for the next week, Etsy kept pitching more and more perfectly targeted “Jan Candy” my way. And Etsy continued pitching me–even though I didn’t buy anything else after that first morning–right up until the moment I hit the “Block Sender” button on my Outlook eBox.
NOW BACK TO ZIPPER: MORE PHOOL SAM
In principle, this is exactly what happens to “Sam Ellis” (Patrick Wilson) in Zipper, but what happens to Sam is a “game” played for much higher stakes.
When we first meet him, Sam is an up & coming prosecutor with political ambitions and all the requisite personal attributes. Handsome and smart, he has a strong resume and a gorgeous wife from a wealthy, well-connected family. Sure his eyes rove a bit, but even when inebriated, he never strays when tempted. Sam knows where he wants to go and he is determined to get there.
Then “fate” throws Sam a curve when a new witness in an ongoing investigation offers him a peek into the world of high-priced “escorts.” Sam’s online adventures begin as innocently as mine did, but unlike me, Sam is quickly addicted. Why? Probably because Sam has way more money and way more power than I will ever have, yet undoubtedly far less experience with online shopping. Throw into the mix an innate sense of “male privilege,” and Sam is a phool ripe for phishing.
To their credit, director by Mora Stephens and her co-writer Joel Viertel do an excellent job of revealing the truth behind the illusion. Even while keeping a tight focus on Sam, they make it clear that the bait is not what it appears to be. Sam surfs an endless online inventory of beautiful young women, picking partners with the same care with which I selected a silver Star for my purple poncho. And indeed, when he gets to the assigned hotel room at the prearranged time, the “product” is just as promised. But unlike my new silver Star, none of it is real.
And my husband’s reaction to my new silver Star is quite a bit different than the reaction of Sam’s wife “Jeannie” (Lena Headey) when she finally puts the clues together and realizes that their lives are about to implode.
© Jan Lisa Huttner (8/28/15) FF2 Media
Top Photo: Patrick Wilson as “Sam Ellis” fights to keep it all together.
Middle Photo: Ellis with his family in a critical press interview.
Bottom Photo: Richard Dreyfuss in a small but critical role as Sam’s mentor “George Hiller.”
Photo Credits: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle © 2014 ThirtyThree Pictures
Q: Does Zipper pass the Bechdel Test?
No, but this film requires that all the female characters exist in isolation from one other, including his wife “Jeannie” (superbly played by Lena Headey). That is part of reason why the system of “male privilege” is so hard to fight. Possibility for change only happens if and when these women finally find each other. Just ask Bill Cosby…
To their credit once again, Stephens and Viertel have constructed an “old boy’s network” for Sam, and as shaken as he may be by his experiences, he may yet succeed. Why? Because they will likely give Sam a pass. Why? Because–after all–“boys will be boys.”
It is in the interest of members of the “old boy’s network” to believe that all of the young women in these hotel rooms are “players” who are there of their own free will. That’s bunk! Zipper makes it clear that these young women are mere commodities in a ruthless Capitalist market. Are they “people”…? No. They have been deliberately outfitted and carefully trained to be male fantasies.
This is why it is so disheartening to me when films by women filmmakers–films which treat important issues like sex trafficking from a female POV–are trivialized by the PR Department and dismissed by the mostly-male cadre of film critics.
I just checked Rotten Tomatoes and the rating is 19% Rotten based on 22 reviews. To be fair, none of the reviews by women–4 of the 22–are positive. The five positive reviews all come from men.
Well, what can you expect? But RT and IMDb describe the film as follows: “A family man who has it all until he risks losing everything due to his inability to fight off his obsessive temptation for other women.”
Yet again, I seem to have seen something totally different from everyone else… and so it goes…
< insert BIG SIGH here >