Pay It Forward

September 29, 2008

d. Sean Ellis

Despite the clunky voice-over narration that emulates Fight Club’s style (even cribbing the protagonist’s insomnia) and despite the seams showing from padding the original short film to feature length, I enjoyed the story of night-shift employee Ben Willis finding love again while pursuing his dream of being a painter. This enjoyment rests mainly in the developing relationship between Ben and fellow employee Sharon (the beautiful Emilia Fox who looks like Sarah Polly), a relationship further developed in the feature vs. the short.

In pursuit of his artistic dream, Ben develops time-stopping abilities and uses it to undress the female clientele of the supermarket in which he works (in order to sketch them, yeah — that’s the ticket!). This magic realism almost doesn’t work because the explanation is hardly satisfying, and it strays a little too close to being creepy, but it’s for Arts sake, people! Full-frontal female nudity is beautiful!

The ability to stop time is used for better dramatic effect as the narrative develops and the relationship between Sharon and Ben grows. Ultimately, it is the filmic literal of the metaphor of time stopping in a shared moment that points towards the future as opposed to figuratively stopping time by living in the past.

The cinematography is incredible; colors are vivid and crisp; and camera movement underscores the emotion. The few things that I found less successful was the balance between the goofy Sainsbury employee bits (especially the “Kung-Fu” character) and the relationship drama, which I found more interesting and emotionally rich. The goofy bits just felt like bits from other movies (Trainspotting mainly (there’s even a football game halfway through the flick)), though I did appreciate that they kept the film from being monotone.

In any case, Cashback has its rewards and is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I give it 2 3/4 stars out of 5.

Next up, I should have Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men.

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