SXSW 2013: ‘Zero Charisma’ is a middle aged bildungsroman through the lens of the tabletop gaming world
Directed by Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews
Written by Andrew Matthews
There is no question that the once derivative term “geek” has become a widely accepted and sometimes lauded term. To be a geek in 2013 means something entirely different than it did twenty, even ten, years ago. The wide access of information, the recent trends, the rise of mainstream Geek Gods such as Joss Whedon, has made geekdom more accessible to the masses. Zero Charisma initially takes a look at the shifting trends but gradually evolves into a tale about simple friendships and knowing when it is time to grow up but not grow out of something.
The film follows Scott (Sam Eidson) who is an unemployed, aimless adult living in his grandmother’s home. However, every week, he is not some loser but the controlling Game Master of a Dungeons and Dragons-type table top game in which he plays with his friends. He surrounds himself in the game, to the point where not even his friends are having fun. When a player leaves the game, a new and charismatic hipster Miles (Garrett Graham) enters, challenging Scott’s primacy and the loyalty of his friends.
Scott knows nothing outside of his game It is more than just a time waster; it is the only outlet of control and source of satisfaction in his life. To be a geek is merely to have an intense passion for something, regardless of popular opinion, but what happens when this is taken too far? He is the total extreme of the geek. Throughout the film, there is a sort of culture clash between the typically defined geek and the new breed of “hipster geek.” There are a lot of ways to approach this transition of social groups; there is a lot of controversy over the state of what being a geek means today, but the film decides to keep Scott and his relationship with his friends at the core.
When it all comes down to it, people can argue over the definition of a geek or who deserves to be one or who does not, but something universal is the loyalty of a good friend and the importance of balancing the responsibilities of reality with passion. It is this emotional core that carries a quite unlikeable character through this hilarious if not niche film.