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Sleeper of the Week: ‘Zero Motivation’

Sleeper of the Week: 'Zero Motivation'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some
light on it.

“Zero Motivation”
Dir: Talya Lavie
Criticwire Average: B+

Right now the movie world’s attention is divided between new Oscar candidates (“Wild,” “Still Alice”) and upcoming blockbusters (“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” Ridley Scott’s controversial “Exodus: Gods and Kings”). Comparatively, “Zero Motivation” is a bit overlooked in spite of its triumph at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it won Best Narrative Feature and the Nora Ephron Prize for women directors. But Talya Lavie’s dark comedy about female Israeli soldiers dealing with the tedium of outpost office work deserves to be seen.

“Zero Motivation” is split into three sections, all of which see its heroines going down dark paths (including suicide, rape, and possession), yet Lavie still keeps things consistently funny by showcasing how its central heroines (Dana Ivgy, Nelly Tagar) pass the day, by showing how, when their equal status changes, their personalities become incompatible and their friendship falls apart, and by staying unpredicatable. Also, there’s a staple gun fight and bizarre revenge involving paper-shredding. If that doesn’t sell you, nothing will.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Mike D’Angelo, The Dissolve

All the while, though, “Zero Motivation” never stops being sharply funny, and there’s scarcely a hint of didacticism in its depiction of female soldiers who are essentially treated as a secretarial pool, so bored that they have to invent tasks to perform and create melodrama from scratch. Read more.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

While Lavie doesn’t use any sophisticated filmmaking tricks, “Zero Motivation” has a subtle quality to its narrative, which unfolds through a series of interlocking short stories riddled with the characters’ angst. Lavie threads together the fragmented plot with a loose flow that echoes the malaise of her characters’ daily existence. Like “MASH,” it downplays major events in favor of conveying the unseemly environment that provides its leading ladies with their main source of antagonism. Read more.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Lavie’s feature-length debut won the top Tribeca Film Festival narrative award and it’s easy to see why: the movie has a strong singular voice, a well-defined point of view and is extremely self-assured. There’s an unusual clarity for a first-time filmmaker, be it in the sharp writing, the simple but effective mise en scène and her comedic timing (she really knows how to punctuate a wacky joke in a wonderful deadpan manner). Read more.

Vadim Rizov, The A.V. Club

A three-part portrait of female friendship, falling-out, and reconciliation on an Israeli military base, Talya Lavie’s “Zero Motivation” makes no mention of the Palestinian occupation. That makes sense, since the film focuses on young women performing two years of mandatory military duty on the administrative sidelines. Patriotic zeal has nothing to do with why they’re there. Read more.

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