Parenting can be tough. That’s for sure. As a parent, you have no only the weight of the world on your shoulders but also you share in the burdens putting stress onto those of your significant other (assuming he or she’s in the picture) and the young child. In those formative years, that little ‘bundle of joy’ will be looking to you for care, aid, nourishment, training, teaching, etc. You name it. Why, if I didn’t know better, one would think it could drive a sane person mad!
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “In the last month of her pregnancy, Esther Woodhouse is savagely beaten in an alleyway by an unknown assailant and loses her baby. To aid in her recovery, she attends a support group for grieving parents where she meets Melanie, who claims her son and husband were killed by a drunk driver. Esther and Melanie develop a friendship, but soon it becomes clear that both are harboring much darker secrets than they initially let on …”
There’s more, but methinks you get the gist of it. PROXY – or, more appropriately, ZACK PARKER’S PROXY – is the baby genius which sprang from the fertile imagination of writer/director Zack Parker (the same one mentioned in the film’s title). Oh, sure, Mr. Parker had some assistance in crafting this story (Kevin Donner), but when your name appears in the credits it’s pretty clear who’s expecting credit, eh? Zack also chipped in with producing and, by the looks of it, probably edited the thing, too. Therein lies the problem with any Progressive look at disturbed “parenting”: isn’t it the Progressives who told us “it takes a village” to raise a child? If that’s the case, where’s the village?
Parker’s film populates a story that’s right out of tabloid headlines; that alone gives it ample opportunity to peel back the layers of wholesome American veneer we societally have protected ourselves with and expose the crisp, calm, yet demented reality of suburban America. Each character he introduces is just a bit more psychologically adrift than the last, inadvertently creating a false reality with which to make whatever statement he believes he made in telling this macabre story. In fact, there are so many bizarre folks in here, I’m honestly not convinced there’s any sane point to it all.
That’s the real shame. PROXY tries to tap into the works of other auteurs by creating something so dense it’d take the average viewer one semester of Film Criticism and a volume of Cliff Notes to figure it all out. But as a viewer with a brain I tried to decipher it as best as I could, and I’m left unfulfilled. The people reminded me of folks I’d met in other superior films – the first hour is vastly more cohesive than the second, and at times it smacks of the subversive genius of, say, the Wachowski Brothers’ BOUND (1996) (even with lesbians thrown in for good measure). Unlike that film, PROXY never quite metastasizes into anything meaningful, choosing instead to take over two hours to take us exactly where it had already delivered us in its first fifteen minutes.
Excesses aren’t a bad thing in cinema. When they’re managed well, they end up supporting the tale, deepening the characters, and giving those who are looking something to watch for. But when they’re left to their own devices, they end up more like that old phrase – how’s it go? – just throw enough up on the wall until something sticks. I say that not by proxy but in my own true voice.
ZACK PARKER’S PROXY is produced by Along The Tracks and FSC Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group under the IFC Midnight label. As for the technical specifications, this is a smartly shot production, and there’s some great sights and sounds to behold. If you’re looking for special features, then you do have some behind-the-scenes materials along with a director’s featurette and the theatrical trailer, but after this two-plus-hour slog I really wasn’t that interested.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. Entirely too long to be either relevant or moderately entertaining, PROXY’s greatest flaw is that appears to have been written, directed, and edited by proxy, meaning everyone was apparently asleep at the wheel. There’s only a hint at a dark drama or an even darker comedy that could’ve been wrapped up in these cinematic blankets, and it’s too bad someone didn’t recommend that Zack Parker show greater narrative restraint. And Zack? We get it already – parenting makes you crazy – so maybe there could’ve been greater depth to the scathing indictment of mankind.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group and IFC Midnight provided me with a DVD copy of ZACK PARKER’S PROXY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more