de facto film reviews 2 stars

Club Zero, the latest film from director Jessica Hausner, is a dark comedy thriller satire, except it has no laughs, is utterly boring and does not make you care about anyone or anything, and ultimately makes no substantial comment on anything. While the film has a physically brilliant color palette, the film is ultimately all surface and no depth. To say this is a vomitous accident of a film, is to perhaps be too on the nose about one of the film’s self-indulgent and “shocking” moments, in which a character forces herself to eat, throw up and then eat the vomit, in front of her parents. Oh, did I mention that the film is about a nutrition teacher at a ridiculously exclusive, and modern, British boarding school, who wants her students to give up eating, and believe only in her and her principles?

That the film, which has elements of a cult narrative, ends on a demand for “faith” from “non-believers” where the camera pans back to reveal what appears to be a recreation of DaVinci’s Last Super, is a moment this viewer is sure the film thinks is clever and deep. However, it is not. Indeed, Mia Wasikowska gives perhaps the only even slightly interesting performance in the film, largely based on an unusual vocal pattern she selected for the part.

Club Zero (2023) - IMDb Courtesy Club Zero

The rest of the cast is, at best, bland, and at worst, downright terrible. Even the otherwise excellent Sidse Babett Knudsen, possessed of more talent than the rest of this cast-as evidenced by her work on the Danish series, Borgen-severely underwhelms as the moronic head mistress of the exclusive boarding school which largely makes up the setting of this dismal failure of a feature. That is another thing at which this film fails. Here is a school, filled with teenagers, so, where is the sexual awareness, the interest, and where is any pop culture or social media? Where, indeed, is any humor? This is not a movie, other than in the most perfunctory sense, nor is it very much of a story.

This is a work that does not speak to you but at you. It lectures the audience as much as the characters, and while you do not truly get the sense the people behind this believe in the nonsense the Wasikowska character espouses, you do feel as though the film has lost its central theme, or muddied it beyond recognition. If the point is concern about the effect education and teachers have, that is horrendous, given the struggles educators have in not becoming puppets of the state, but if it is asking us to be aware of bad education-whatever that might mean-there is another work to be made, but this is not that film.

Club Zero

Courtesy Film Movement

What we have, instead, is an unholy mess of a film that does not accomplish what it wants to accomplish, which appears to be a warning to not trust authority, to pay attention to warning signs, and to not shove your kids aside. It believes, perhaps, that this is an attack on religion, too, but the Last Supper finale muddles that. The film may think it is about how trends can be dangerous, and how a “little” education is a bad thing, but it is the execution which lacks, here. In the hands of a more capable writer, director and cast, this could have been interesting, if flawed. Instead, this is one of the most disappointing films of the past few years.

Club Zero opens in limited Theaters Friday, March 15th