If a 15-year-old boy produced his ideal romantic comedy, it would feature as many sexy naked women as possible, lots of jokes about tits/shagging/farting, and perhaps a semblance of a love story — for the girls. Well boys, welcome to Cashback, a misfiring combination of juvenile humour and pseudo-meaningful navel-gazing.
Sensitive art student Ben (Biggerstaff) breaks up with his girlfriend and suddenly finds himself unable to sleep. To get through the nights, he takes on a job at Sainsbury’s, alongside three moronic shelf-stackers, an obnoxious manager, and gorgeous checkout girl Sharon (Fox). Ben soon finds a unique way to deal with boredom: he magically pauses time, whips out his pencil and paper, and strips the clothes off unwitting female shoppers so that he can use them as life models. I know — sounds seedy and immoral, doesn’t it, undressing women without their knowledge? It’s OK, though — he’s an artist. He’s simply admiring the way they express their inner beauty ... using their breasts.
Conveniently, the girls all look like they’ve stepped out of Zoo magazine — at least one of them, glamour model Keeley Hazel, actually has. While they’re frozen in time, Ben draws them in the most undignified state, their knickers round their knees and tops hoiked up to their armpits. Startlingly, this sequence is accompanied by dreamy music and a ‘thoughtful’ voiceover, as Ben explains that artists see the true beauty in everything. If that’s the case, Ben, why don’t you draw male customers, or fruit? Why not wax lyrical on the charm of a wonky shopping trolley, or a packet of Tena Lady from the feminine hygiene aisle? There’s also an eye-popping scene in which Ben watches his parents’ lithe, naked lodger walking upstairs. The camera lingers so long on her ascending derriere that I wondered whether we were about to have another moving monologue from Ben, this time accompanied by a close-up of her cervix. Interestingly, object-of-affection Sharon isn’t shown naked at all. The director consciously divides her off: the Madonna/whore complex in action.
The cast works hard, and there are some funny moments with shop assistants Barry (Dixon) and Matt (Lambourne). Supermarket manager Jenkins (Goodwin) is implausibly repellent though; I couldn’t believe Sainsbury’s agreed to put their name to him. The time-freezing itself —the crux of the plot — confused me: is it magic, or imagination? We never find out. Writer/director Ellis is a successful photographer, and the camerawork here is fanciful and undeniably appealing. It’s a shame that the plot and script are so ill-considered. Even the tagline is baffling: ‘Sometimes love is hiding between the seconds of your life.’ Ellis should have plumped for something a bit more representative of the film: ‘Sometimes breasts are hiding between the seconds of your life.’