For such a small nondescript film with such an innocuous title, Café has a lot more brewing in its pot than anyone would guess. It’s the collection of stories surrounding the patrons and employees of a small café, but at the same time, it’s not that. Is it a love story between two strangers who have a chance meeting over and over? If it is, that story is quickly undone by the one about a guy contacted by some omniscient force who claims that he and the people around him are nothing but avatars in a program, quickly dipping the film into metaphysical discussions and then taking it back into the small world of a coffee shop. And that story gives way to one about an abusive relationship, and then another about a guy tied into a world of drugs that just might get him killed, all while a moody writer sits in the corner doing his best to capture everything that happens in his words. Just like the mixed bag of stories that blend together to make Café, the film is also a crap-shoot of performances, some brilliantly nuanced and others clumsy at a cringe-worthy level.
When a film tries as hard as Café does to be philosophical, it’s easy to fall into heavy-handed conversations about free will and doe-eyed testaments of love and heartbreak. And Café does, many times, but the conversations don’t go to new places or explore new ideas. They’re stale, the rinds of better more creative conversations long sing sapped of their flavor, and because of that some might in unpalatable instead of just momentarily bland.
The cavalcade of stories trade places in the spotlight fast enough that none of them has time to get cold, and that’s both hurtful and helpful. It’s beneficial because some of the bad performances and scenes give way to better ones, but at the same time, the disparity in quality becomes all the more clear because of it. There’s enough here to make it appealing to mass-consumers of independent film, because it’s heads and tails above many lesser efforts, but at its best it’s indicative of a potentially bright career for writer and director Marc Erlbaum and not so much a great film unto itself.
DVD Bonus Features
"Café" is on sale October 11, 2011 and is not rated. Drama. Written and directed by Marc Erlbaum. Starring Jamie Kennedy, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Madeline Carroll, Derek Cecil, Daniel Eric Gold, Michaela Mcmanus.