By Amy Lamare, March 13, 2007
In Caffeine (CAFEN), a quirky bunch of coffee shop employees and patrons air the details of their sexual misadventures for the amusement of the audience. However, wine, not caffeine, is more conducive to the kinds of confessions our characters make over the course of the narrative. The film bears an uncanny resemblance to recent release Waiting, only it is set in a London coffee shop rather than an American chain restaurant.
Set in the Black Cat Café, the film opens with the café’s manager Rachel (Las Vegas’ Marsha Thomason) pitching an outright hissy fit at the man sleeping on the sofa in her office. It turns out this man is her soon to be former boyfriend as well as the head cook. He’s being unceremoniously dumped for sleeping with not one, but two other women. He argues that it only counts as one transgression since he had both of them at the same time, and they were identical twins.
Once her unfaithful lout of a boyfriend is dealt with, Rachel has a problem-she has no cook for the day. She assigns cook duties to her backup cook. Except, the flamboyantly gay (to the point of being farcical) backup cook can’t cook. What he’s trying to pass off as lasagna has the texture and odor of dog food. This being the kind of film it is, we must now up the ante – Rachel reveals she’s up for a job at a much classier establishment and today is the day her skills as a manager at Black Cat will be assessed.
Meanwhile, out in the restaurant mini dramas are playing out amongst the customers. We have two guys in their 20s, one high as a kite and freaking out. The other is convinced another patron is a former porn star. The porn star in question is busy placating her overly attentive and neurotic boyfriend who even thinks when the waiter asks for her order he’s hitting on her. And this is all before her porn star past comes to light.
Caffeine boasts a cast rich with talent. However, even the best of thespians can only do so much with such lack of depth in the story. With few exceptions, the actors in this film tend to exaggerate their movements and gestures. Whether this is a way of conveying the effects of caffeine on their system or their way of creating something interesting out of this script, it cannot be known. What it does do is give this film an unpleasant edge.
Sure, caffeine is a stimulant and the filmmakers may have been trying to show this stimulant’s effect on people. But caffeine is not a stimulant known to cause people to start spilling secrets, especially secrets of a sexual nature.
The spilling of those secrets should be the point from which this plot takes off. Instead it seems to be the point of the whole plot, which leaves Caffeine feeling more like the pilot episode of yet another Friends spin off than like the feature film it is.
Caffeine opens in limited release on Friday March, 16.
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