Sam Ellis is a man on the rise - a federal prosecutor on the cusp of a bright political future. But what was meant to be a one-time experience with a high-end escort instead turns into a growing addiction. His moral compass unraveling, his new demon threatens to destroy his life, family and career.
First, let me reveal that I think Patrick Wilson is one of the most under-appreciated, naturalistic actors working today. His pairing with Kate Winslett in the film of Tom Perotta's brilliant "Little Children" was sublime. I even liked him in Joe Carnahan's over-the-top (but still lovable) "Stretch". So when I read the summary of "Zipper" and knew he played the lead, I had to see it, despite the uniformly negative reviews.
Mora Stephens' film revolves around a seemingly straight-laced upstanding guy, Sam Ellis (Wilson), who --- perhaps subconsciously --- lets his sexual addiction spin wildly out of control only a few months before being prepped for a senate seat bid. I say subconsciously because there are a lot of indications, through the script and Wilson's largely underplayed performance, that Sam's not a real happy guy. His "career" has been architected and steam-rolled by his passive-aggressive wife (Lena Headey), their marriage is on the rocks (though on the surface it seems fine) and he's constantly being given the stink-eye for even mentioning ethics to his jaded boss.
Wilson imbues Ellis with so many shades of gray and doubt that it really is quite riveting watching him unravel, back-pedal, and flail madly as his world threatens to crumble around him. And that's really all there is to this movie. It's a potent character (not plot) piece on the subject of addictive, compulsive behavior and sex addiction in particular. It really treats the dysfunction as just as potent an urge as the one a junkie craves in hard drugs. You can *see* the helplessness and frantic drive in Wilson's face and really believe that he believes he *has* to surf to that porn site, he *has* to call that escort... in his mind he has no alternative.
This is brave, unflinching stuff and not many people will empathize or even care to see such repugnant behavior in action, yet Stephens and Wilson don't spare us anything, even a brutally uncompromising, cynical, and quite believable ending.
It's amazing that people say things like "How could Ellis be so dumb?" Like ANY kind of addictive behavior is something people actually sit down and mull over, weighing the pros and cons, before getting their fix! Do addicts have the control to change their behavior? Of course. They just can't conceive of it. And that's the point of "Zipper".
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