07/18/2007 12:00 AM |

In Sean Ellis’ feature debut Cashback — an expansion of his 2006 Oscar-nominated short film of the same name — a heart-broken art student develops insomnia and, as a remedy, devotes the eight hours of his day usually spent sleeping to working the night shift at the local Sainsbury’s (i.e. Food Emporium). Sean Biggerstaff (from the first two Harry Potter films) plays Ben Willis, the moping cleanup boy in this low-budget British comedy about the interminability of life after love. To help him get through the long hours of the night, Ben lapses into a fantasy world where everything around him freezes, allowing him to walk around and observe the world as unmediated art objects. Predictably, as he’s an aspiring still life painter and a teenage boy, he uses much of the time to envision the female customers in their altogether.

Cashback aims for a Risky Business-type meld of sex comedy and art film, but doesn’t have the steam to satisfy either. By refusing to ramp up the necessary energy and by saddling the film with Biggerstaff’s soporific narration, it all becomes quite trying on the viewer’s patience. The thing about constantly freezing the frame for lingering looks at still figures is that it’s ultimately not far removed from paint drying. Admittedly, there is a certain charm to the sweet romance and quirky supporting characters nestled in here, but they’d be more palatable in 30-minute doses on the BBC than in a 102-minute sitting in the cinema.

Opens July 20 at Quad Cinema