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Chapter Zero Reviews

The leading man's charm goes a long way toward redeeming writer-director Aaron Mendelsohn's self-absorbed, midlife-crisis dramedy. Dreading his 30th birthday, would-be novelist Adam Lazarus (Dylan Walsh, pre TV's a pre "Nip/Tuck"), an editor/ghostwriter for publishing-company dragon-lady Cassandra (Penelope Ann Miller), ponders the renown attained by his father, Frank (Colm Meaney), a cross-dressing painter. Adam also resents the middle-class security of his married brother, Victor (Rus Blackwell). His live-in girlfriend, Jane (Laurel Holloman), fostering Adam's goal of writing the Great American Novel, places her own documentary-filmmaking aspirations on the back burner. Adam is an aging dreamer, however, who doesn't commit himself fully to his relationship or to his muse. After Jane offers constructive criticism and Cassandra belittles his talent, Adam responds by tossing his laptop into a canal and abandons writing to embark on a confessional tangent that he captures on video. Eventually pulling himself out of his funk, he scribbles off a second, more personal tome that good old Jane slips to a small publishing house. Voila! It accepts Adam's page-turner. When Cassandra get wind of the other publisher's interest, she pursues Adam's book for her flagship company. Unfortunately, the coveted manuscript contains a damning revelation about Victor, who takes after his father in at least one surprising way. Because Cassandra insists on dishing the dirt, Adam must consider how badly he wants success. Writer-director Mendelsohn dilutes the impact of his thirtysomething breakdown with dollops of raunchy humor and slapstick. Walsh's charisma keeps this direct-to-video feature from being a total write-off, and the filmmaker handles the climactic soul-searching better than the farcical build-up. Watch for Lee Majors, the Six-Million-Dollar Man of '70s TV, in a cameo.