If nothing else can be said about Proxy, the latest film by Zack Parker, it is safe to call it ambitious. Within the first hour, the film flip-flops on tone, pacing, the identity of the antagonists versus the protagonist, and throws in an extended slow-motion sequence for good measure. All of these components slammed into a relatively short running time pretty much flies in the face of conventional storytelling. It seems, though, that Parker is being brashly unconventional here, meaning Proxy plays less like a confused, muddled mess and more like a gonzo mishmash of cinematic ideas. While not every moment clicks, and not every narrative path leads to success, Proxy is a haunting film that does so much right it is easy to forgive the occasional misstep.
Proxy’s synopsis is pretty much meaningless here for reasons stated above. The center of the story takes at least four point-of-view leaps of very different protagonists. These protagonists also manage to flip to the active antagonist when the story isn’t being told from their perspective. This probably makes it sound way more nebulous and, dare I say, artsy-fartsy than it really is. The communal story works and is very well congealed. It’s simply that the arcs that glue the larger narrative together are so drastically different it is shocking this film even makes sense, let alone work well.
But Proxy does work well. So well, that it causes a bit of confusion at the end. Not any logic-based confusion, but more of the confusion of the audience member trying to really understand “how the hell did he make that work?” There are so many points that this film could have went of the rails and ended up destroying everything in its path, but no, Parker managed to rein this fluid narrative into something shocking, effective, and entertaining.
There are three major thematic components of Proxy, the portrayal of women, the presentation of grief, and the method of human connection. To delve too deeply here would be to rob a viewer of the full experience of the film, but generally speaking none of these themes present themselves in an especially optimistic way.
Perhaps most controversial and discussion worthy is the portrayal of women. All women in this film shift, and not in a general character growth way. More of a motivations being revealed that expose them as damaged and unstable people way. It could be argued that this shift feels tonally misogynistic, portraying each woman as a predatory life-destroyer. It could also, though, be argued that these women represent the opposite. These woman could be seen as the ultimate victims of the film, societal pressures, norms, and expectations weighing so heavy on them they can’t help but snap.
The final two themes wrap themselves up nicely with the portrayal of women. How do the stated “feminine” characteristics lend themselves toward, or maybe completely betray, any sense of human connection and grief.
While all of this is verbose and wonderfully nebulous, the point of all this is to try to communicate how complexly, and successfully, Proxy is constructed. This is a film that is an experience, with layers and tonal shifts that is a cinematic oddity that should be seen and felt. While the journey might not be without its bumps, the final destination is satisfying and wholly disturbing.