Game of Groans 

Zero Charisma and the Dark Side of Geeks

ZERO CHARISMA "You're the only one who's ever loved me."

ZERO CHARISMA "You're the only one who's ever loved me."

SCOTT (SAM EIDSON) is a geek. And not a hip, together, popular geek: Scott is a geek, obnoxious and loud and fat, with anger issues and social issues and family issues that he only seems able to deal with by (1) listening to metal and (2) playing a game that, presumably for legal reasons, is not technically called Dungeons & Dragons. But it's practically D&D, so let's roll with it. As the unyielding dungeon master of his all-important game, Scott spends all his time obsessing over its minutia. We see the less-than-flattering effects of Scott's white-knuckled grip on his escapist world, but we also see the causes: He's got a lousy family and a lousy job, and his charmless, condescending behavior means romance isn't even on the radar, unless you count masturbating to Wonder Woman.

Those who know Ignatius J. Reilly or suffered with the characters of Sam Lipsyte's "The Dungeon Master" will find much familiar in Zero Charisma, but the film goes a bit further by introducing Miles (Garrett Graham), the newest player of Scott's D&D game. Miles is a hip, together, popular geek—with a girlfriend, a job, and designer frames that accessorize American Apparel hoodies. And unlike Scott, Miles isn't a dick. Soon, Scott's few friends are happier to hang out with Miles—leading to a battle for identity that Scott, furious and hurt, escalates to the scale of Tolkien.

Zero Charisma's core rule—that life is shitty and hard, and everybody just gets through it the best they can—is a solid one, and despite all its geeky bona fides (a not insignificant chunk of time is devoted to determining if the Millennium Falcon is faster than the Enterprise), it's easy to watch it as nerd-sploitation, full of groan-worthy, wince-inducing awkwardness. But those who stick with Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews' film will find a surprisingly nuanced story underneath: Zero Charisma, thankfully, never tries to make its characters "cool," but it does make them human.

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