2013 SXSW Review: ZERO CHARISMA

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Scott Weidemeyer (Sam Eidson) lives for writing and developing role playing games. As the “Master” of his weekly gaming group, Scott takes his games way too seriously. So when a new member of the group challenges the master’s authority and game scenarios bringing an element of fun to game nights, Scott’s life begins to change. To add more drama to his life, Scott’s estranged mother re-enters the picture when his grandmother falls ill.

Directed by Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews, this hilarious and sometimes touching SXSW selection presents a genuine and honest portrait of role playing game culture.  Andrew Matthews wrote a terrific script with consummate humor which doesn’t just make fun of geek interests, but does celebrate them as well.  Sam Eidson does an excellent job portraying more than just a caricature of a geek, but a fully realized and fleshed person who, despite his annoying characteristics and a childish temperament, deserves some empathy, and actually has some redeeming qualities.  My only criticism of the film has to do with the ending which I felt could have been a bit more neatly written and presented and not so matter-of-factly done. Perhaps, I’m nitpicking, but I feel a bit unsatisfied with the manner in which the filmmakers conclude their story.

The film also features first-rate performances by Anne Gee Byrd (Scott’s grandmother, Wanda), Garrett Graham (Miles), Cyndi Williams (Scott’s mother, Barbara), Vincent Prendergast (Martin), and Katie Folger (Kendra).  Zero Charisma is another SXSW film produced and shot in Austin. Austin film productions had quite a presence this year at the festival and the city should be quite proud of this addition to Austin’s filmography.

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