Starring Mena Suvari, Marsha Thomason, Breckin Meyer, Katherine Heigl, Mike Vogel, Callum Blue, Andrew Ableson, Daz Crawford, Neil Dickson, Mark Dymond, Jules Leyser, Jennifer Sciole, Orlando Seale, Sonya Walger and Roz Witt.
Screenplay by Dean Craig.
Directed by John Cosgrove.
Distributed by First Look Entertainment. 88 minutes. Rated R.
Caffeine is a story of a London coffee shop which is trying desperately to be hip and quirky. The movie, not the café, though the employees and patrons do definitely have the attitudes. Sadly, there is a strong whiff of sitcom (and not the good attributes of the form, either, I’m afraid) to all that is going on in this over-stuffed, under-brewed plot.
It’s too bad; the film has a good cast going for it. A little heavy on the TV names, which may count for the sitcom-y feel – but some talented people nonetheless. Sadly they are kind of overwhelmed by so many plots and subplots and people that no one really gets a chance to connect in any real way.
The Black Cat is supposed to be a cool place to hang in a swankly disheveled London neighborhood. The movie looks over the many eccentric employees and customers at the place, supposedly opening up their lives and beliefs and worlds to us – though for the most part, only their sex lives get a real airing.
The movie itself takes place almost completely in the restaurant, so we do not actually experience most of these peccadilloes, we just hear them discussed and gossiped about ad nauseum by the self-obsessed characters.
The Black Cat is run by Rachel (Marsha Thomason of Las Vegas), who has to deal with the possibility of getting her dream job on the same day that her boyfriend the chef (Callum Blue of Dead Like Me) cheats on her with twins. Of course this leads to business problems as well as personal ones as she fired the guy and has no one to cook. She does have a wait staff though. There is a tough-as-nails local (Mena Suvari of American Beauty and American Pie) who for some strange reason had to bring her demented grandmother (Roz Witt) in to work. We also have a struggling wannabe novelist (Breckin Meyer of Garfield) who spends more time trying to reach his agent than serve people. Then there is the homosexual barkeep (Mark Pellegrino) who is annoyed by the fact that he is the only one who seems to be actually working.
If the employees are quirky, the patrons are just weird. There are two old friends – one (Andrew Ableson) who has “mistakenly” exposed himself to a young girl, so he blackmails his lawyer friend that if he doesn’t represent him in court he will tell the lawyer’s fiancée that he is a cross-dresser. A nice, quiet girl (Katherine Heigl of Grey’s Anatomy) gets set up on a completely unsuitable blind date (Daz Crawford), while her commitment-phobic ex (Andrew Lee Potts) is completely decompressing watching from across the room. A former porn actress (Sonya Walger of Mind of the Married Man) tries to read her book, but keeps getting interrupted by her jealous boyfriend.
Of course all this raises a question – is flashing a twelve-year-old girl ever funny, even if it is a mistake? (And the audience never totally buys into that rationalization). For that matter, is it humorous for a grown man to have an accident in his pants when he is threatened with a gun? Also, why is the grandmother even there except for cheap laughs? She has no real part in the story but keeps butting into scenes, raving about all sorts of strange sexual practices. Is Alzheimer’s or dementia supposed to be a joke here, too? The problem is too many of the things here are vaguely shocking and taboo, but not necessarily comic.
Strangely, several of these actors – such as Heigl, Suvari and Pellegrino – are not British but given fake accents (and in fairness, only Suvari’s working class bird-speak tends to waver, the rest are not bad.) Also strangely, fellow American Meyer doesn’t even bother with an accent – not that his being a Yank is really explained or overly important to the role.
Then again, I have no confirmation of this, but I did read an article that suggested that the film was filmed in Los Angeles, not London. It sort of makes you wonder, then, why even bother to set it in the UK? Are the accents supposed to give the storylines gravity? If so, it doesn’t really work.
Then again, not much of the movie does work. (4/07)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 1, 2007.