Directed by Sean Ellis
Written by Sean Ellis
Sean Biggerstaff as Ben Willis
Emilia Fox as Sharon Pintey
Shaun Evans as Sean Higgins
Michelle Ryan as Suzy
Stuart Goodwin as Jenkins
Michael Dixon as Barry Brickman
Michael Lambourne as Matt Stephens
Marc Pickering as Brian
Nick Hancock as Rory
102 Minutes(Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content and language. )
"Cashback" has a nice little story that goes into its making of. Writer/director Sean Ellis made a twenty minute short film back in 2004 called "Cashback." The film garnered much attention, and was even nominated for an Oscar in the Short Live Action Film category. I got the chance to see it as part of the 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Film Live Action program a year ago, and found it to be an amusing twenty minutes. It wasn't my pick, and it didn't win-"Six Shooter," a much better film did-but there was no doubt that it was entertaining. Ellis had a gift for really transfixing the audience. And then the short was so popular that he decided to take the ideas from it and expand it and the characters into a feature film. And he was lucky to get the entire original cast, and then some additional characters, and tell a perfectly enjoyable romantic comedy. And starting about ten minutes in, he even shows his original short film-scene for scene and second by second-although I did notice that he changed the music a lot. I was not too miffed by this, as the original short contained the piece "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. I believe that it is overused in film and in the last two years I've heard it used in "Drama/Mex," "Elephant," and "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," although the latter version did something a little different with the piece. And I can call myself a hypocrite because in a two minute film that I was a part of two years ago I ended up suggesting that piece for the finale, and it made it there. But that's another story-and this is the story of "Cashback."
Sean Biggerstaff is our star, and if you have no clue as to who Sean Biggerstaff is, he played Oliver Wood in the early "Harry Potter" movies. He plays Ben, an art school student that has recently broken it off with his long term girlfriend Suzy. But he wishes that things ended up differently, and finds himself spending his nights awake, alone, and frustrated. When he realizes that he's broke, he uses the eight hours extra that he has to work at the local grocery store, where he comes into contact with an array of colorful and crazy characters. There is Barry and Matt, the two goofballs who want to do as little work as possible every night and still get paid for it. There is Brian, the new guy that actually knows kung-fu. There's the boss, Mr. Jenkins, who is determined to beat the staff of a rival supermarket at football (or soccer in this case). And then there is Sharon, the quiet girl at the checkout line who might just be the one that helps Ben to fall back asleep when he starts to daydream about her (and for good reason). And who can forget the fact that Ben has the power to make time stop. And he does this every now and then. He makes time stop and then wanders around in this frozen world where he often ends up undressing women and then drawing them. Or he just likes to pause for a moment and think.
The original purpose of the short film "Cashback" was to discuss time and the ways that we spend it. Of course we have to work, but there are some small bits of comedy pertaining to making the time go quicker. Sharon puts a piece of tape over her watch to make sure she doesn't get wind of the time-makes her evening go faster. As for Matt and Barry, they just try to have fun-and time flies. But for Ben he makes time stop-which is ironic considering that he would rather have time go quicker to stop thinking about his ex-girlfriend. And in the film version, Ellis has crafted an element that was missing from the short-a love story. There is no Suzy in the short. Sharon is there, but there is never a hint at any romance between the two of them. And its all here, and its all done so well and in a way that is so entertaining that there is no reason to dislike "Cashback." It isn't perfect, but the characters are all well thought out, the actors interact with one another very well, Sean Biggerstaff is a great lead and Emilia Fox matches him with the sweet and innocent Sharon, and the script perfectly combines elements of love, comedy, and philosophy. Ellis had me involved in every minute of the film, very much like he had me involved in every minute of his short.
And in addition to a sweet love story, there are some great comedic vignettes-one involving the football game, and another involving a party that Jenkins throws for himself (where he pays Ben to get him a surprise stripper-as no birthday would be the same without a surprise stripper). There are neat one liners, and a great character in the form of Sean, who was nowhere to be found in the original short as well. Ellis is successful is taking his short and not making me feel like I've sat through this before. He's given it a new life in this feature. Even when I was actually watching the bits from the short I felt like I was watching something virtually new, and it did not seem the same in the context of the rest of the story. "Cashback" is only playing in a handful of theatres, but it was a Magnolia release, and they are the company that releases films in theatres and HDNet on a Friday, and then on DVD on the following Tuesday, and that is exactly what they are doing with this. While it is a perfectly fine film to go to the theatres to see, please take advantage of the DVD release if it isn't playing in an area close to you. It's a fine film, and a great one to sought out in any form possible.