Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Patrick Wilson has made a career out of playing characters whose wholesome, all-American good looks cover up deep moral conflict, from early films like “Hard Candy” and “Little Children” to more recent efforts like “Space Station 76” and “Home Sweet Hell.” He excels at it—he seems comfortable with the kinds of uncomfortable contradictions these roles provide.
And so it comes as no surprise that in his latest film, the unfortunately titled “Zipper,” the family-values prosecutor he plays is hiding an increasingly reckless fetish for high-priced escorts. Wilson brings as much integrity as he can to this tormented figure and he leads an impressive supporting cast that includes Lena Headey, Ray Winstone and Richard Dreyfuss, who anchor a handful of individually solid scenes.
Despite all their efforts, though, they can’t save a movie that’s at odds with itself. This second feature from director and co-writer Mora Stephens has all the stylistic and thematic trappings of a made-for-cable movie you’d watch late at night and hate yourself for in the morning. But it also strives, kinda, to be a serious political drama and to make a statement about the public’s tendency to rush to judgment in the face of hypocrisy. Its shadings of the 2008 Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal are unmistakable, yet the film as a whole feels sort of retro as a tawdry cautionary tale. How can we enjoy clucking at this ambitious man’s downfall when tens of millions of people have had their own extramarital activities exposed in the Ashley Madison hack? It all seems more quaint than criminal.
Like Spitzer, Wilson’s Sam Ellis is a star on the rise. He’s a smug federal prosecutor in South Carolina with a strong track record and a secure home life. His wife, Jeannie (Headey), is beautiful, stylish and politically connected; a former lawyer herself, she now devotes her time to raising the couple’s young son, performing charity work and maintaining a gracious and immaculate home.