‘Zero Motivation’ is Funny and Cunningly Subversive

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"Zero Motivation" is a comedy about young female conscripts in the Israeli army.

Credit: Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

(WOMENSENEWS)– "Zero Motivation," which just opened Dec. 3, is Israeli writer-director Talya Lavie’s first feature. It’s a comedy about young female conscripts in the Israeli army at a remote desert outpost contending with a tedious routine of filing, shredding, fetching coffee for male officers and trying to beat each other in high-secret computer game battles. They vent their angst by playing pranks on their overbearingly matronly officer. It’s entertaining, satirical and a cunningly subversive view of the Israeli military and of women in the military. Good fun. Good laughs.

Opening Dec. 5

"Wild" brings best-selling author Cheryl Strayed’s eponymous memoir to the big screen. Reese Witherspoon plays the diarist who hikes solo along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1,000-mile treacherous but scenic mountain trek. Her goal is to test herself and to overcome her addictions and other self-destructive habits. Witherspoon’s well-paced performance is one of her best. She traverses all the highs and lows of Strayed’s journey and is already attracting Oscar buzz. The film is a gripping and inspirational journey of self-discovery; the cinematography is as bold and beautiful as the wide outdoors. Must be seen on the big screen.

"Still Alice" stars Julianne Moore as a brilliant linguistics professor who is diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She must cope with her own failing memory as well as the knowledge that the hereditary disease may be passed on to her three children. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, sharing writing credit with Lisa Genova, create a grippingly sympathetic scenario. Moore’s performance is heartbreaking, and Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth are superb as her daughters. Bring Kleenex.

"Take Care" is an engaging femme-centric dramedy, a first feature written and directed by Liz Tuccilo. Leslie Bibb stars as Frannie, who barely survives a car crash and, out of necessity, turns to her ex-boyfriend for help. She suffers emotional wounds when their already troubled relationship is challenged by his new girlfriend. The drama is punctuated by some good laughs that enhance the story and keep you engaged.

"Life Partners," another first feature, is writer-director Susanna Fogel’s quirky take on a classic situation: close female friends – Sasha (Leighton Meester), who is gay, and Paige (Gillian Jacobs), who is straight — find their relationship disrupted when Paige falls in love with a man (Adam Brody). Co-written by Fogel with Joni Lefkowitz, the script steers clear of stereotypes and delivers some good laughs while delving into the nature of female friendship and codependency. Meester and Jacobs are appealing as the gal pals.

"The Barefoot Artist" is an inspiring art documentary that traces the creative career and journey of personal discovery of acclaimed Philadelphia-based artist Lily Yeh, renowned for transforming troubled and neglected communities with her art projects around the world. Filmmakers Glenn Holstein and Daniel Traub follow Yeh as she revisits her birthplace in China, investigating her family roots and seeking to solve her own family secrets.

Dec. 12 Openers

"Free the Nipple," a first feature written, produced, directed by and starring Lina Esco, grew out of the New York City-based social media campaign #freethenipple, which staged demonstrations, street performances, graffiti art and other events featuring topless women to question why images of violence reign free on Internet platforms while images of naked women’s breasts are severely restricted. It isn’t exactly a bra-burner, but the film is liberating, informative and entertaining.

Dec. 17

"If You Don’t, I Will" is a romdram from French writer-director Sophie Fillieres. Pomme (Emmanuelle Devos) and Pierre (Mathieu Amalric), a longtime married couple, are comfortable with each other and content in the life they share; until they begin to doubt whether they still really love each other and if they still want to continue with their routines. These are questions that most couples grapple with at one time or another, and the beautifully acted film will undoubtedly cause some introspection. This is a good film to see with friends who have time and inclination to discuss it afterward.

Dec. 19 Release

"Annie" is an updated cinematic rendition of the Broadway musical, scripted by Emma Thompson with Aline Brosh McKenna, and starring Quvenzhane Wallis as the big-haired girl who’s browbeaten by an evil foster mom (Cameron Diaz) and maintains a cheerful demeanor despite her life of hard knocks. The musical numbers are dazzling, but overall the film is overly cute and lacking luster.

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