Nearly – but always a bit too soft and bit too broad to really make it work
As the opening titles inform us, this film is a bit of a satire but one that is totally not directed at Amway. In it, a man is dealing with the passing of his parents, only to find he and his family have inherited no money, since his parents had paid it all out into a company that he sees a just a big pyramid scheme. Problem is, he seems to be the only one in the town that is holding out – a situation that gets more extreme as the owner of the company (Jimmy Scofield) comes to personally make an appeal to him.
Grand Zero was recently featured on a short film site that I look to for always filtering and bringing out the best examples of shorts being made today; which is not to say that I always feel the same as them, since many things are in the eye of the beholder. Being Northern Irish, Amway is not a company I know of, although I get the business model, and as such maybe the chance to make fun of them doesn't resonate with me as much as it would with others who had been sold stuff at every family get together for the last however many years. To me the film was a case of "nearly" because I could see what it was trying to do but it seemed to generally fall short. So the joke is pretty decent as an idea, but too often it is broadly funny and amusing – not actually funny.
The same could be said of the tone; it is aiming for Stepford Wives or Bodysnatchers with its style, but it could have gone harder at it, but instead it keeps its soft edges and therefore always feels like it is trying to get to this point rather than really nailing the genre reference. The feeling of sot edges and broadness also limits its effectiveness as a satire – I doubt anyone at Amway will be too upset by this as it does actually feel quite affectionate in nature for the most part. The performances match this since they are mostly good but not great. I did enjoy Ian Roberts as Scofield, however his was another case of nearly as I thought that playing it a bit closer to Clancy Brown in HBO's Carnivàle would have been the goal.
Grand Zero has appeal, it is well made across the board and it is entertaining for what it is doing; I don't have a connection with the company that it is (totally not) taking shots at, which maybe limited my enjoyment of it, but for me it was consistently a case of good try, but no cigar.
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