Had James Franco’s “Zeroville” been better, it might have suggested “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as helmed by existentialist Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni.
Unfortunately the production, which was in fact directed by Franco prior to his acclaimed 2017 satire, “The Disaster Artist,” seldom rises above being a tedious muddle despite its intriguing, cultural crossroads setting.
Based on the novel by Steve Erickson, the events are filtered through the intense, haunted glare of Franco’s Ike Jerome, a.k.a. “Vikar,” a former seminarian who has stepped off the bus to Hollywood circa 1969 to find an industry whose traditional studio past is being challenged by young upstarts like Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg.
With his shaven head revealing a tattoo of “A Place in the Sun” stars Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift brandished across the back of his skull, Vikar lands a job as a set-builder, where he’s subsequently taken under the wing of a hedonistic, cigar-chomping screenwriter (Seth Rogen, channeling John Milius) as well as a nurturing editor (a terrific Jacki Weaver).
He also develops a crippling obsession with the alluring Soledad Paladin (Megan Fox), star of the (actual) erotic horror movie “Vampyros Lesbos,” all the while adhering to his barely audible, zombie-like performance.
That turn is right at home in this lethargic, hallucinatory mish-mash with matching dialogue that has all the zing of a Wikipedia entry.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: AMC Burbank 16