Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has been filming a movie on the sly.
"I want my magic to be about people and relationships, not about props."
Joe Tyler Gold works some of that philosophy into Desperate Acts of Magic. There's a dinner date between two magicians in which the pair bonds over appearing and disappearing coins and bills, and a disagreement involving a paper hat trick.
Gold and co-director Tammy Caplan weave magic in throughout the story of two magicians—Jason (Joe Tyler Gold, Never Say Macbeth) and Stacy (Valerie Dillman, Charlie Valentine)—who fall in love, with a lot of help from members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Gold, it turns out, is a magician himself, and the act that Jason works up at the last minute is the act he's been performing throughout his life. I vaguely remember seeing it on TV somewhere—as you may have—but I can't quite place where. It, too, deals with relationships, since it features a magician squabbling with his female partner. Desperate Acts of Magic is full of clever little bits.
At the outset, things don't look good for Jason: he's just been fired from his job as a software developer (one Gold holds in real life), he's just been robbed by shell game players, and a kids' party gig goes bad. Jason gets a call from a mysterious woman who's new in town, who invites him to dinner. She's Stacy, and she's also the one who lifted his wallet. Things go well on a date until he suggests that she work with him in an upcoming magic contest—as his assistant! Stacy, it turns out, is no one's assistant.
Jason and Stacy have an odd chemistry together, but it's the chemistry of people who don't play well with others. Gold's Jason is an obvious putz. He doesn't handle things well when two women obviously like him, as you might expect from someone who's been alone for a long time and never been in that situation. Still, his foolish but resolute manner is one you might admire if you've been up against the wall. Dillman's Stacy is a trickster, routinely stealing wallets and popping up everywhere as she leads her bohemian existence; most of the action in the movie is driven by her quirky behavior.
Notable among the supporting players is Sascha Alexander (Married in a Year) as Ellen, Jason's assistant (also the other woman). She talks a lot and gets upset; Ellen's the stock character from the act of the bickering magicians, fleshed out into someone more relatable by Alexander's performance.
Caplan and Gold provide a commentary. They talk about shooting a movie without all the proper permits, and their dry throats, something I don't recall ever hearing about during a commentary. There's a deleted scene, which is mostly of Jason brushing his teeth and easily skippable.
The digital picture and sound quality are good, especially considering some of the on-the-fly filming. There's some herky jerky camera work that seems intentional, meant to mimic the frantic activity, but it's up to you whether you find it charming or irritating.
If you like magic, the plentiful tricks make Desperate Acts of Magic worth a rental or a cable peek. The main reason to watch are the two offbeat female leads who create memorable comic characters.
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