Cashback Review

Jul 23, 2007 | 9:07am EDT

When Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) breaks up with Suzy (Michelle Ryan) he develops a sort of superpower: He can freeze time. He also develops chronic insomnia. Nevertheless Ben takes a job at a supermarket and meets an attractive checker Sharon (Emilia Fox) as well as other clerks who play games to keep themselves amused. Ben’s trick for passing the time is freezing time and stripping women to admire their bodies but not in a sleazy way. He gives those who deserve their comeuppances a healthy kick as well. Cashback follows boy-meets-girl patterns but rather than rely on a high concept it turns out that even this super power isn’t enough to resolve even a simple misunderstanding. The story explores these possibilities with a fascinating and simple device as we learn about Ben’s character through his exploration of frozen time. Biggerstaff (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) is a perfect leading man. He’s not the adorable bumbling Brit or the lifeless stuffy type; he’s just a modest kid with a deep appreciation and love for women. He may be better at expressing this in his own time than in real time but Biggerstaff imbues Ben with enough intelligence and strength that we completely understand him. We absolutely never think he’s evil for undressing women. Meanwhile  Fox (Keeping Mum) is a dream girl. Never dolled up or oh-so-cute her Sharon is just an exasperated working girl who wants to find her dream man. She’s a real person working her way through life and when she faces the slightest disappointments you want to give her a great big hug. Ryan (TV’s new Bionic Woman) is the ultimate manipulative bitch. She is so angry at the world you know it’s better for Ben to be alone. When she tries to come back into his life however she’s not the overt villain. She’s more about how a person can try to weasel their way back into their exes’ lives. The other characters play more caricatures but still relatable. The goofy stock boys the stodgy boss and others fill in the cast like a Kevin Smith movie. Cashback is an example of how unique an independent film can be. In a studio’s hands this would be Clockstoppers with a bad-guy caper. Instead we get a brilliant masterpiece from first-time director Sean Ellis fully fleshed out from his acclaimed short. The director lets the story tell itself rather than using tricks and stunts and finds clever ways to play with the time freezing for laughs. Still the film never takes itself too seriously. For their part the frozen-time sequences are just magical with little to no CGI. The actors are mostly standing completely still on their own accord. You might catch someone waver but you totally suspend disbelief because there are no frills. There are also wonderful transitions between time as Ben’s past and present bleed seamlessly and artistically into one another. Most importantly the voyeuristic moments with the unclothed women are some of the classiest and sexiest on screen. Ellis films women in the most flattering light always admiringly never exploiting. Cashback is expert filmmaking pure and simple.

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