Cashback: Kwik-E-Mart Rendered as Art Gallery

Wong Kar-wai on aisle four and Michel Gondry on aisle six, with Kevin Smith as mop jockey at all points in between—such is the lost-in-the-supermarket milieu of writer-director Sean Ellis' whimsical comedy, expanded from his Oscar-nominated 2004 short Cashback. Insomniac art student Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) nurses a bad breakup by clerking at an open-all-night superstore staffed by frolicsome hooligans, a starched-prick boss, and a checkout girl (Emilia Fox) he can't help but check out. Whenever the night drags, the hero simply stops time and wanders the aisles stripping the freeze-framed female customers and using them as models for his sketch portfolio. Ellis works hard to gloss up this sicko conceit, applying a patina of winsome quirkiness as liberally as Mop & Glo: The movie is too cute by half, made close to unbearable whenever Ben's narration spews glib pseudo-profundities about memory and temporal stillness. But the flaky humor of wage slaves serial-killing time is good, rude fun; the trompe l'oeil camera trickery creates a woozy sleepwalking effect; and Ellis shoots the immaculate rows of paper towels and canned veggies with an Andreas Gursky–like eye for symmetrical splendor. It's all so lovely, you'll want to go out at 3 a.m. to buy Cool Whip.

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