Directed by Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews
You needn’t be a tabletop-gaming aficionado to appreciate this both affectionate and cold-eyed portrait of the politics of geekdom and gameplay. Sam Edison stars as Scott, the ogre-like leader of a small circle of nerds; with a wide face, flat brow, and strong nose—tufts of hair and a mole sprouting from his face—he’s the gamemaster of a Dungeons & Dragons-like role-play of his own creation, leading a weekly trip through his fantasy realm fueled by soft drinks and salty snacks. When one player has to leave the game, Scott finds a replacement, the James Franco-esque Garrett Graham, who Scott realizes too late threatens his hegemony: Graham is sexually active, has a hot steady girlfriend, a full beard, superior geek knowledge, and a high-trafficked website. He brings a six-pack to typically teetotal game-night. He’s a natural King of the Nerds. (Among other things, Zero Charisma, like Portlandia’s “Nerd PSA,” is about the co-option of nerd culture by the cool kids that don’t have a real investment in it.)
Edison’s antihero was already miserable: fired from Austin’s gaming store, he’s been reduced to doing deliveries for Donut Taco Palace and still lives in his grandmother’s house. He falls apart from there, forced by Graham’s popularity and success to confront his own essential failure, dismantling the facade he’s carefully constructed to protect himself emotionally—from jealousy, insecurity and self-loathing. That’s not to say you should pity him: he’s a mean and rotten friend, domineering, manipulative and selfish. Do his friends, family and colleagues reject him because he’s an asshole? Or vice versa? “It’s your own goddamn fault no one likes you,” Graham, in his own way unlikable, finally tells him—which the film turns into its own sort of tragedy. You can see Scott’s sad humanity without having to lend him your sympathy.
Opens October 11