Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cashback Review

Cashback is one of those weird movies that is getting released in limited theaters on Friday and to DVD on Tuesday. I've never understood this strategy and maybe never will, especially since Cashback is good enough to warrant a wide release. Here's my review...

From writer/director Sean Ellis comes Cashback, an entertaining and edgy romantic comedy-drama. An independent film that most of you will never hear of or see, Cashback stars Sean Biggerstaff as a young man who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and is seeking to find solace any way he can - and he does so by taking a dead-end, night shift job at a grocery store.

Biggerstaff, who is best known to young girls as Oliver Wood in the Harry Potter movies, turns in as a good performance as Ben, a man who knows he has a crappy job, has not completely given up on life, but still spends his days depressed and thinking about this ex-girlfriend. Insomnia leads him to a night shift job at a local store, where he quickly becomes friends with the other off beat employees (seems like there are quite a few employees for the night shift), including one named Sharon (Emilia Fox). As the two slowly develop a friendship, Ben realizes that he is starting to think less and less of his ex - which is a good thing - and more and more about Sharon - which is also a good thing. In the mean time, though, he spends his time day dreaming, usually about freezing time so he can paint and capture a person's beauty just the way he wants to see it. As time is frozen, he can look at someone from as far back or as close up as he wants - and undress them if he feels like painting them in the nude.

A bit weird? Yeah, just a tiny bit. In reality, Cashback is a pretty down-to-Earth indie comedy that has a few sparks of laugh-out-loud humor, an engaging, simple and sweet love story and some powerful dramatic moments that perhaps work better from a technical/film viewpoint than a storytelling one, but work nonetheless. Most of the movie is pretty basic, though Ellis does his best to make it sound deeper than it is by throwing in a bunch of poetic narration (which actually does work quite well), but things really shine when time is frozen, not only because we get to see lots of naked women, but because we also get some of the best lines of the film. Cashback is a perfect example of how you can take a simply story (man loses girl, man finds new girl, man gets over old girl) and take it one step further.

There are a few parts where it feels like Ellis is trying a little too hard to be deeper than your average flick; after all, how many guys really ponder life, actions and consequences the way Ben does in the movie? Still, for the most part, the writing is pretty top notch, as long as you don't mind narration.

Cashback balances itself out pretty well between a comedy and drama, and thanks to good acting and terrific directing, it is a very entertaining and likeable film. Recommended to those who like independent romantic comedies - a.k.a. romantic comedies that aren't just the same old fluff Hollywood pumps out.