Wednesday, December 29, 2010
This is a nice British romance film with a slight twist. The protagonist, Ben Willis, is an art student who has just had a nasty breakup with his girlfriend, Suzy. Ever since the breakup, he can't get Suzy out of his mind and hasn't been able to sleep. So he takes a night shift job at a local supermarket, to essentially sell his extra time (hence the title). As anyone who's worked a job where they'd rather not be can tell you, the clock is the enemy, and you need to find ways to not look at it. But Ben's approach is different from anyone else's; rather than avoid the slow pondering of time, he comes to look at each second as a still life painting. Soon he's imagining he can stop time altogether. For the rest of the film, his ability to stop time is no longer treated as if it's in his imagination.
This can lead to a couple different interpretations, which is usually what makes films like this fun to talk about afterwards. Has he really learned to stop time? Is it just symbolism for finding his freedom? Has he let his imagination take him over and lost his mind? The film doesn't really lead you down any of these paths, but I found myself exploring each of them as I thought about the film afterwards.
Being an art student, Ben uses his opportunities to stop time to draw nudes of all the pretty girls at the supermarket. It's something that could be interpreted as gratuitous (since he only does the pretty ones), but it just comes across as an appreciation of beauty. By contrast, Ben has the obligatory sex-obsessed pig for a best friend and the usual bragging co-workers, which shows us how he's not like them, how his motivations are something more elegant and beautiful. Which leads him to checkout girl Sharon, who starts out the film as just a plain, bored cashier, but who becomes more and more beautiful as Ben falls more and more in love with her.
It's not a movie about stopping time; it's a movie about people, romance, and finding the beauty in the moment.
One interesting side note: when looking for a movie poster, I found three different versions. The tamest version which I used here (and was also the version used on Netflix where I watched it), with the bar completely covering the woman's chest and her skirt down; the more common version, where she has just the title covering her chest without the white box (albeit with a bra added) and her skirt hiked up to show her underwear; and an international version, where she's topless with nothing obscuring the view and her skirt hiked up. I find the differences for the different markets quite amusing.