Memron (2004)

DVD Cover (Red Envelope Entertainment)
Nancy Hower Nancy Hower
Tim Bagley Tim Bagley
Claire Forlani Claire Forlani
Mary Pat Gleason Mary Pat Gleason
Jeff Hayenga Jeff Hayenga
John Lehr John Lehr

5.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Business, Comedy, Mockumentary, Parody / Spoof
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 12, 2005
Making a really funny mockumentary is very difficult. Not only does a director have to have pitch perfect comic timing, but also know which type of actors to cast in the film. Rob Reiner really started the whole genre with "This Is Spinal Tap", but an alumnus of that film, Christopher Guest, took mockumentaries to the next level. With "Waiting for Guffman", "Best In Show", and "A Mighty Wind", Guest tackled three different areas of life and conquered them with hilarious improvisation and eternal heart and soul. A lot of that has to do with his brilliant cast of regulars -- Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, and many more. Almost two years since the last great mockumentary, "A Mighty Wind", was released, comes "Memron", a humorous spin on the whole Enron scandal from a couple of years back. Newcomer Nancy Hower directs the film, which stars a wide assortment of character actors, most of whom you have probably seen before, but cannot remember.

This film tells the story of the Memron Company, one of the most powerful in the world, until the government realizes that not all of the dealings go on there were perfectly legal. So, the CEO's landed in prison, and the rest of the company was left to fend for themselves, all possessing minimum skills. We are introduced to these people during a support meeting being held in a small elementary school. Each former Memron employee has problems -- Shelley Johansson has a daughter with a clubbed foot and has been traumatized by a co-worker's hand puppet; Jim Westerfield has been kicked out of his mother's house and lives in his car, though he pays the rent on the home; Brenda Wright cannot walk ten feet without finding someone to have sex with; and, Carl Schlosberg has a baby on the way and no concept of right and wrong. Together, these jilted employees band together to form a company called Airflo, which is in the business of packaging and selling air to consumers -- desert air, beach air, air with sage -- whatever kind of air your heart desires. Michael McShane co-stars as Ken Clay, the former CEO of "Memron", who has to deal with prison life, followed by house arrest, and a French wife who wants nothing more than to leave him, which she eventually does.

In traditional mockumentary style, the actors are expected to improvise most of their actions and dialogue, and they pull it all off surprisingly well. Mary Pat Gleason as Shelley and John Lehr as Carl shine in their roles, with Michael McShane adding just enough comedic veteran weight to balance out the picture. Most of the audiences, including myself, felt sorry for the character of Jim Westerfield -- it was hard to laugh at him, especially when most of it is misfortune. Shirley Prestia, whom most might remember from her sensational role on the TV show "Home Improvement", has the most fun with her role, testing the boundaries of the character on more than one occasion. I expect that, were this film to be exposed on a national level, this could lead to many new horizons for the cast of this film, especially Gleason and Lehr (who reminds me uncannily of Hal Sparks).

The humor in this film proved a little trying, at times. There is one scene where Carl is at work and on the phone to his wife, who is in labor, and he jokingly tells her that it sounds as if their child is breached. It was obvious they were going for a shock value type of laugh, but no one in the audience did -- we all sat there, kind of disappointed. I got the same feeling from the scenes involving Carl talking about Shelley's daughter, whom he insists has cerebral palsy -- I guess it was a little too cruel for a comedy like this. And, the ending seems a little more depressing that you would expect with a mockumentary. All of the characters we empathize with end up more miserable than before, and most of the characters we loathe end up coming out strong. I guess all mockumentaries cannot have happy, warm endings -- it's just nice when they do.

For her first feature film, Nancy Hower does a very nice job with "Memron", and shows that Christopher Guest is not the only director around today with mockumentary skills. Her pacing and plotting are perfect, the writing is exceptionally lifelike, and her cast standout as one of the best ensembles of the year, complimenting one another at every turn. Some of you might find "Memron" to be a little too dark and a little too brash for a comedy, but you have to focus on the really hilarious scenes if you want to discover the true value of the picture. The jokes that work...they work really well. The jokes that do not work...they are made watchable by the over-the-top performances. "Memron" was smart, funny, and very memorable. 7/10.
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