Cashback

Dir: Sean Ellis, 2006. Starring: Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michael Dixon, Michael Lambourne. Comedy.
Cashback

This is not a movie about love. This is a movie about eros and the comedy of the daily grind. The difference between love and eros seems to be in the history of the words and the reactions from them. Love is fresh, tender, and pleasant—it changes you and, for many, it is a lifelong quest. You can fall into it and be unfolded by it and, for some, it is something that can fade. Eros is inescapable and erotic. It is the poison at the end of cupid's arrow and reminds me of hot phrases like "engulfed in fire." That's not what the word literally means, but more of my metaphorical picture of it. Once known in Greek mythology as the God of Love, eros is now a universal word describing a deep and sickening sense of affection toward beauty (however you define it), and it is exactly this force that has captured and unhinged this movie's lead character.

Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) has just suffered a grueling breakup, equipped with a ceramic mug and IKEA lamp being thrown at his head and the loneliness that soon followed. But the objects that became tools for abuse are not the last of his worries. Shortly after splitting with his first girlfriend Suzy, he becomes a full-fledged insomniac and is in awe at the fact that he now has eight extra hours in each day to do whatever comes to mind. At first the insomnia is simply frustrating, though it allows him to read and re-read everything he has ever wanted to finish and work hard in his first year of art school. After shopping for snacks in aisle 8 of the Sainsbury supermarket, he notices a "now hiring" sign and decides to "waste" his extra eight hours of nighttime working.

Here at Sainsbury, everyone has their own method of surviving the horrendousness of an 8-hour retail shift. You know what I'm taking about. I don't know a single person under thirty who has not worked retail at least once. If you're lucky enough to have escaped this double-sided job (part comedic gold and part terror), let me fill you in on what these characters - and all of us - deal with. You must exercise patience with the very old and the very young, the introverted, the insane, and the ignorant. The clock is your absolute enemy, and you glance at the number of sick days you have left as often as someone checking up on stocks and bonds.

Then there are efforts to trick your mind into a functional submission. Unfortunately for Ben, he discovers that the extra time he has is spent thinking about his break-up. His co-workers are different and more exciting in that respect. Sharon's (Emilia Fox) only enemy is the clock. She puts objects in the way of the large one on the wall, and a piece of tape on her watch to insure that her anxiousness won't get the best of her. Then there's Barry (Michael Dixon) and Matt (Michael Lambourne), the so-called scooter kings, who've devised various games to pass the time. These include placing phallic shampoo bottles in the carts of female patrons to see if they'll purchase them and having scooter-races in the aisles on the days their manager calls in sick. The quietest and the newest of the bunch is a wannabe kung fu guru who reminds me of Napoleon from Napoleon Dynamite. Last but not least is their boss, who sees himself as a sort of gladiator and re-lives his glory days on a soccer field before an "accident."

As the tomfoolery continues within the bunch, Ben's take on reality alters more and more. Thanks to art school, he has gained a sort of appreciation for still life and in his daydreams he is able to freeze time. With time suspended he wanders through moments and takes time to soak up the details of life as slowly or as quickly as he desires. As his pastime becomes more intriguing to him by the day, so does his co-worker Sharon. The two bond and share their secrets and dreams until each has the courage to go for what they really want in life.

Cashback was written, produced, and directed by Sean Ellis. Whenever that happens (besides Zach Braff's little flick, Garden State) I find that the outcome is extremely rewarding and impressive. You can not only see the work of the director who wrote the film but you can see the various talents he brought to the table as producer in order to complete his vision. So in a sense you get as much of their imagination on the screen as possible, unlike the usual process where a film is born, dies when the script is handed over, and can be re-born, depending on who gets their hands on it. The work of the cinematographer is not without some flashiness, but it is confident and clean, not unlike the cinematography of Amelie, for example. And like Amelie and My Own Private Idaho, this is a great example of stop-motion effects in filmmaking. The time-lapse sequences work well and add an edge that has purpose, since Ben is playing with time in his imagination. The artistic design has direction and a point because he is an artist, and the flashbacks are needed and well-placed to stabilize him as a dreamer. Even the "plastic materials" and props work well to help the story along, such as the presence of the number 8, which resembles the symbol for infinity within time. If you're looking for a comedy that hits close to home and has good artistic merit, I highly recommend this delightful movie.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Aug 10, 2010 5:56pm
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