Movie Review - Zilla and Zoe (Portland Film Festival)
I couldn't help but be reminded of The Birdcage (1996), the remake of La Cage Aux Folles, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Greg James arguably is in the Robin Williams role and Kurt Conroyd in the Nathan Lane role. Yet, here, they don't play a gay couple, despite there being an inside joke that they look like one. For those in the know, James and Conroyd did play a gay couple briefly in The Benefits of Gusbandry, also screening at the Portland Film Festival.
Here, however, Greg James plays Sal, the father in question who is single and has sole custody of his two daughters. His wife and mother to his kids has been out of the picture for nearly a decade, not long after his second child was born. He has been raising his girls pretty much by himself in his nice suburban home, somewhere in Portland. He does have the occasional help from his deadbeat brother, Oscar, played by Kurt Conroyd. Oscar's deadbeat disposition is only matched by his rather deadpan sensibility, a dry humor that pervades this entire film.
In The Birdcage, there was a concerted effort to subvert what or who could be feminine. Similarly, this film subverts the idea of femininity in that the two brides-to-be here reject the stereotypical expressions. It's not that they reject femininity all together. The message here is that they simply don't have to conform to the overly stereotypical gender roles. They can and should do what they want and how they want it. It's up to those around them who love them to accept that.
Meanwhile, Aida Valentine who plays the younger sister and Sal's youngest daughter, Zoe, appears to be in a completely different movie. She's off in her own world. While everyone else is doing a version of The Birdcage, Valentine is doing a version of Bowfinger (1999), putting herself in the Steve Martin role. Yet, Zoe is less a con artist and more in the Ed Wood variety, which might be a little insulting, but she's an earnest filmmaker-in-training.
It's certainly an achievement when Scalise can make a coffin into an object of one's affection. That, and a dance, probably inspired by Michael Jackson's "Thriller," makes this an appropriate film to show on Halloween, which is the case at this year's Portland Film Festival.
Not Rated but contains some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.
For more information, go to https://portlandfilmfestival.com/