Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.
This week’s choice: Cashback.
When two people separate, each suddenly finds themselves with an overabundance of time, or a portion of their lives surprisingly empty which could do with some occupying. This is most true for art student Ben Willis after his (mostly unexplained) first real breakup. Ben not only develops insomnia, but somehow discovers he has the ability to pause time.
With a lack of sleep abruptly granting an extra eight hours each day, Ben takes on a job as a night clerk at a grocery store, where he meets an interesting cast of characters that each possess a unique “art” to coping with their mundane job. Primarily motivated by the need to make phallic jokes, two pals mess around behind the meat counter at the deli, as Ben’s romantic attention turns inevitably towards the mousy checkout girl. Spurring on this motley team is a night manager who used to play professional soccer, but suffered a career ending injury.
Ben, being an art student fascinated with the female form, naturally uses his time altering powers to draw female patrons of the store half clothed. Though the intent of the film is obviously to depict nudity from an artistic perspective, the majority of the movie’s male characters clearly don’t see the world from Ben’s point of view, which gives the film an unfortunate overall feeling of male chauvinism. The fact that Ben’s love interest, Sharon, serves as the sexually harassed object of the impotent manager, without sticking up for herself throughout most of the film, only reinforces this perspective.
While it’s obviously a necessary part of the movie’s conclusion, Ben’s ability to stop time and rearrange things is never used to much potential, nor is it maintained with much internal consistency; at one point in the movie, Ben discovers that there is at least one other person who can move freely and interact with the stopped world, but this point of drama is never actually pursued. By the end of the movie it’s obvious that the ability of Ben to share this world is necessary for a separate element of the plot, but throwing a bit of the unexplained into the already unexplainable is one step too far into the movie’s alternate reality.
It’s a shame that the hurdles of inconsistency and unclear messages are there, because they do block what is an otherwise interesting exploration of what it means to have a dream unanticipatedly severed from your life, whether that dream was a relationship or professional sports career. If you can overcome some failings, it’s possible to draw the conclusion that happiness lies not in dwelling on the absence of a thing, or in putting your life on pause because something you once relied on is suddenly gone. Happiness is accepting the void, and finding something new to fill that role. That’s moving on. But again, if that’s the perspective you hope to achieve then that’s something in this film that you’ll really have to work to see. Kind of like reality.