Published on October 15th, 2013 | by Dan Gvozden



“Stream My Reels” is a weekly column that will feature one recommended streaming title from many different sources (Netflix, OnDemand, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.).

If there is a reason to own a service like Netflix it so you might have an experience like the one I had with Sean Ellis’s Cashback.  I love entering into an experience with no expectations and walking away not only surprised but genuinely entertained and excited by what I’ve seen.  It is an experience that is growing increasingly rarer in my life, what with trailers all over the internet and press coverage of just about everything.  I knew nothing about Cashback except for a brief mention that it received on a critic’s honorable mentions from a past year a few years back.  So I went into it blindly, judging it a bit apprehensively due to its provocative cover that suggested that it might be just another tawdry comedy that featured boobs to get an audience.

cashback2006kj5Instead I discovered a film that would quickly become one of my new Netflix-found favorites.  It turns out that Sean Ellis knows how to direct low-budget comedy that has intriguing visuals, a great ensemble cast, snappy jokes, and a heartfelt romantic story at its core.  It begs you to jump onboard for the wild ride (perhaps that’s the point of the deceptive marketing) and get lost in the world of its characters.

Cashback follows Ben, an initially unlikeable protagonist, who suffers a rather painful breakup with his girlfriend.  He is unable to keep his mind off his loss of having her in his life and immediately develops a rather unique case of insomnia.  Ben, in a fairy-tale sort of way, can no longer sleep and needs to fill the newly gained eight hours of his life with something.  So be begins working the nightshift at a local supermarket full of wacky characters.  Ben, a struggling artist, begins to imagine that he can stop time and so that he might illustrate the naked bodies of the women of his supermarket, free of their knowledge.

Then one day, his imagination becomes real.  He realizes that he can actually stop time.

The film continues to follow his antics with his coworkers and the eventual blossoming romantic relationship with his coworker Sharon.  It is all very light and fun, with the coworkers stealing the show and providing most of the laughs.  There are some genuinely interesting situations and concepts put forth here, though they might not be quite as deep or thoughtful as the film seems to think.  The script might be a bit too all-over-the-place for its own good, but sometimes it can be quite a bit of fun to just watch a beginning filmmaker run wild with ideas and concepts that would never make it into a bigger-budget film you might find in the theaters.

cashback(story)If I were to lob one real complaint at the film it would be in its depiction of the female body.  During a flashback, Ben explains that he’s been impressed by the beauty of the female body from a young age and that’s why he intends on drawing these women.  I genuinely think that Ben’s intentions towards this topic are handled in a way that he doesn’t come off as a sexual deviant but one cannot help but think of how his actions might be considered unwanted sexual contact.  The other problem surrounding these incidents is that all of the women he undresses are of a particular body type, the kind that sells tickets, and it presents a view of women that serves to only further objectify them.

This might be too much for some to brush aside but I feel that the tone and manner in which the film handles it is genuine and despite reeking of voyeurism.  I wish these sections, which don’t contribute much to the film, could be removed but it won’t stop me from recommending the picture.  I wonder just how much this concept was used to sell investors on funding this independent project.  In the end it is a really fun experience with a great ensemble cast full of lovable losers.  It uses some truly inventive camera ideas that remind me of early Woody Allen, which is always a good thing.

“Cashback” is now available for instant streaming on Netflix Watch Instant.

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About the Author

Do you remember that dorky kid from elementary school who loved movies and comic books? Dan's him, but an adult... well in most senses of the word. All that matters is that he's an aficionado of all things pop culture and wants to share his interests with the world.

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