My number 12 movie of the year took a very small ride on the film festival circuit and is now available on DVD. Not many people caught this movie in theatres, but everyone can certainly watch it at home.
A very well-run movie party, this festival provides plenty of opportunities to catch independent pictures, as well as bigger films which will later expand their reach to theatres everywhere.
In 2012, however, my unfortunate schedule didn’t allow me to experience my usual 15 or so films, and I only had a couple evenings to catch three movies.
Later that week, I was very pleased to know “Shuffle” won the Phoenix Film Festival Best Picture Award.
It is a great film for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it’s not afraid to challenge convention while simultaneously embracing classic storytelling.
"Shuffle" is a time travel story which uses a California suburban backdrop as its setting, and the lead character, Lovell (T.J. Thyne), thankfully does not attempt to save the world from a nuclear disaster or preventing an assassination.
The purpose of Lovell’s journey is much smaller, but in the space of someone’s life, the ramifications for success or failure are quite monumental.
One day while in his 30s, he - against his will - jumps time to different points in his life.
One moment, he’s suddenly back in his teen years, soon after he lands in his 20s and next, he’s reliving his childhood.
Why is this happening?
What is he supposed to learn?
What is he supposed to change?
Is there any pattern to this madness?
Lovell, understandably stressed out, tries to apply logic to the illogical.
Kuenne presents his film in black and white, and the effect adds to the movie's already illogical “Twilight Zone” feel.
Running a modest 82 minutes, “Shuffle” doesn’t mince words and moves at a speedy pace, and its lively march to an unknown conclusion heightens our appreciation for Lovell’s strange dilemma.
Setting the sci-fi angle aside, the movie works on a human level even more.
The people in Lovell’s life - including his mom (Meeghan Holaway), dad (Chris Stone) and his long time friend, Grace (Paula Rhodes) - interplay with him very well, and the script, along with the actors' ability to play up small town America while expressing plenty of heart, successfully and emotionally bring us into Lovell's universe.
Rhodes, in particular, is highly effective as the person by Lovell’s side and plays the girl next door with plenty of jazz and smiles.
The caustic relationship between Lovell and his dad feels ham-handed at times, but the difficult exchanges remain important to the movie.
If you love time travel stories, you’ll enjoy this film.
If you love classic storytelling, “Shuffle” could be a rare wonderful gem which will stay with you for a long time.
For me, it's been about 10 months and counting...
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