Memories For Sale (2013)

Description (from the IMDb):
Charlie O’Neal (David Sullivan) is a writer desperate for a big break. For four years he has been writing a biography on the great Sid Freedman (Bob Colonna), a famous comedian from the golden age of television. But when the book’s contents seem ‘too tame’ or dull to interest any publisher, Charlie’s literary agent Bruce Halpern (Jerry Bisantz) organizes an impromptu meeting in his office with Sid’s granddaughter Rachel (Melissa Penick) bringing him in. Bruce coerces Charlie into interrogating Sid on the private yet scandalous details surrounding his career, much to Charlie’s dismay and all for just a few more juicy tabloid-headlining pages. What is the price of a man’s dignity?

Cast:
David Sullivan as Charlie O’Neal, Bob Colonna as Sid Freedman, Jerry Bisantz as Bruce Halpern, Melissa Penick as Rachel Wagner

Special Features:
None (Online Screener)

Written by Jerry Bisantz
Directed by Christian de Rezendes

I previously had the chance to review a pair of documentaries from de Rezendes, 41 and REVEALED (reviews here), and was excited to get a chance to watch some fiction from him as both of these films were very good (41 is the documentary with the second highest rating I’ve given on Ryan’s Reviews). I am always interested to see how filmmakers make the transition from fact to fiction, as the filming styles of these two types of film are quite disparate. I realize from his credits that this is not de Rezendes’ first fiction film, but it’s the first I’ve seen. I was also intrigued by the fact that MEMORIES FOR SALE is a stage play that is being adapted for film, and like the difference between fact and fiction for the filmmaker, this change of presentation of the story also creates a challenge for the film in its transition. So for me, MFS was a movie about change, and that was before I even popped it in the DVD player.

Go get 'em tiger!  Get that dirt!
Go get ’em tiger! Get that dirt!

MFS is the story of a biography that needs one more juicy detail that is well-known, but not publicly admitted to: everyone knows that the reason Sid and his comedy partner Sam broke up was because of Sid’s wife’s infidelity with Sam. Everyone knows it. But in four years of interviews for the as-of-yet unnamed biography, Sid has not come clean on that fact with Charlie, and the publishers are requiring this last bit of info. Charlie’s agent Bruce has pretty much set it as a roadblock; if Sid doesn’t admit it, there will be no book. The plot of MFS takes place on the day that Sid’s granddaughter Rachel brings him to meet with Charlie at Bruce’s office, so that Charlie can try to coax that one last tidbit out and get the book done and paid for. Of course, if it were that easy, this would be a pretty boring film.

De Rezendes does a very good job on the technical side of MFS. Right from the opening shot its clear that this is shot beautifully on HD video with good command of lighting. HD has come down so much in price these days that just about every low-budget movie is in HD now, so that is not a surprise. What still makes some films excel over others is the technical aspects that go with the HD video to make the final picture look good; the use of focus, composition and camera angles, and lighting. MFS hits all of these. The picture quality is extremely crisp, and the lighting does a great job of doing what it’s supposed to without making itself known. The camera work is overall restrained, but with a picture that is mostly two guys sitting in an office talking, I don’t expect and long sweeping crane shots of extreme close-up action; the camera work and use of focus that does fill MFS does a more than adequate job keeping the visuals interesting to the eye without going overboard. The other big ingredient that can make or break a low-budget film is the sound quality, and MFS is top-notch on this too. The dialogue is all very well recorded and clean, and the music fits the tone and mood of the film perfectly.

I know about agents!
I know about agents!

When there are the aforementioned transitions that MFS has, my biggest concern was for the acting quality. Making a documentary, a director does not have to “direct” actors; you just sit someone in front of a camera and let them tell their story. So I was somewhat concerned about de Rezendes’ ability to get a performance out of his actors. On the other hand, acting for the stage is a completely different sport than acting for film; on stage you are yards away from the very closest of your audience, and a full theatre length away from the people in the back, so everything must be “bigger” than when you act for a camera that can literally be just inches from you and pick up every minutia of your performance. So again, I was concerned that de Rezendes’ may have a an issue because (I assume) the actors are used to projecting their performance to the people in the back, and they only now need to sell it to the camera a few millimeters away. My concerns were both accurate and exaggerated at the same time. I found it to be about half and half: the leads were both very strong and the supporting actors were a bit over the top. Sullivan and Colonna were both very believable in their respective roles as Charlie and Sid, and both did a great job of toning down the performance for the much more intimate venue. I was very impressed with the show de Rezendes got from these two, and I am glad that they carried the bulk of the running time. For the support, Bisantz and Penick, I still felt like they were acting for the stage. Halpern, the Agent, just came off as inordinate in his amount of gusto presented, and Penick’s Rachel was just too much. They were not bad, but they were still acting to the people in the back and not to the camera in their face.

Sid and his wife, in "happier" times
Sid and his wife, in “happier” times

Overall, I greatly enjoyed MFS. It was a very solidly produced film with above-average quality in its presentation (both visually and aurally), it had a great plot with some very nicely unexpected twists and turns, and it was just an overall good movie. The transitions presented in the film – from documentary to fiction for de Rezendes and from stage to screen for MFS – had some stumbling in some of the acting, but even with this the acting was of much higher caliber (across the board) than a lot of low-budget films I am given to watch. While I liked most everything about it, I have to give Bisantz a lot of credit for crafting such a great story that goes places unexpected in a short 25 minutes, and ends on a nice open question, which was then perfectly supported by Sullivan’s performance; you can see the pain and chagrin splashed across Charlie’s face.

Overall 7.5 / 10

MFS on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2638138/

MFS is not for sale.

MFS site: http://www.memoriesforsalefilm.com/

Memories For Sale (2013)
Memories For Sale (2013)
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