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cast: Mena Suvari, Breckin Meyer, Katherine Heigl, Marsha Thomason, and Callum Blue

director: John Cosgrove

89 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Blackhorse DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Ian R. Faulkner
I had, after the first few minutes of watching director John Cosgrove's directional debut, already given Caffeine an abysmally low score (for reasons I'll go into later), but then, for some unknown reason, I began to warm to its weird, hybrid nature and by the time the closing credits rolled round I had upped my score two points to the figure above.

The jumbled plot of Caffeine, unfolds over the course of a single day and deals with a myriad of overlapping story strands all set in the small London café called the Black Cat, which is, in truth, more bad restaurant than hip Starbucks-like coffee shop.

In the Black Cat we meet owner and manager, Rachel (Marsha Thomason) who is courting a management position at a local hotel (The Marion) and is expecting the hotel owner to call around to assess her management skills. Now, this couldn't happen on a worse day as Rachel has just fallen out with her two-timing boyfriend, the Cat's chef, Charlie (Callum Blue), for having a threesome with twins and then telling her about it. We also find that wait staff Vanessa (Mena Suvari) has brought her deranged, out-of-the-institution-on-day-release, grandmother (Roz Witt) into work for the day, and that struggling novelist Dylan (Breckin Meyer) has just had his existential masterpiece rejected by his agent and publisher. In fact, the only member of staff not having a bad day is emotional gay, Tom (Mark Pellegrino), well, that is until Rachel puts him in the kitchen to cook in Charlie's absence.

In addition to cranky and put-upon staff, Caffeine also enlightens us about the personal lives and peccadilloes of the café's customers, everyone dysfunctional, inane or self-absorbed: ] we have the feckless Danny (Mike Vogel) and his lovelorn friend Mike (Andrew Lee Potts), two stoned losers; Danny's jilted ex-girlfriend, Laura (Katherine Heigl), who is coincidentally in the café on a blind date with a loud, shotgun owning nut-job called Steve (Daz Crawford); we have a dead rat in a Harrods bag, the property of the arrested-for-public-indecency-and-in-need-of-an-alibi, John (Andrew Ableson), and his women's underwear wearing lawyer friend and alibi in waiting, David (Mark Dymond), who both await David's uptight and controlling fiancée, Angela (Jules Leyser); finally, we have ex-porn actress, Gloria (Sonya Walger) and her uptight and in-the-dark boyfriend, Mark (Orlando Seale).

At first Caffeine struck me as miscast and pointless; the dialogue and accents irritated and the forced wackiness of the situations and the two dimensional shallowness of the characters grated and made me cringe. It was trying too hard to be hip. I could see where the director was coming from and I liked the idea for its potential, but it seemed just too inconsistent, slow and random to gel as a movie. Then, out of the blue, it clicked and I began to enjoy it and found myself chuckling at the ridiculous situations and one-liners.

Admittedly, Caffeine still reminded me more of an overlong comedy sketch than a movie, but in the end I found myself hooked. The acting is a mixed bag (although I particularly enjoyed Gloria and Laura's characters), but I put this down to the farcical nature of the story - which is, after all, an 89-minute skit. I wouldn't recommend you go out of your way for it, certainly don't buy it, but if you have time to kill and fancy a chuckle, give it a whirl as a rental.

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