Judge Alice Nelson once shuffled off to Buffalo; needless to say it was a very long trip.
Life is worth living, even if it isn't in a linear fashion.
It took three long years after filming wrapped that Shuffle was finally seen by audiences. A labor of love by writer/director Kurt Kuenne (pronounced Kenney) and producer Chris Stone, raising money to finance film through family and friends who believed in the project. After being turned down by some of the top film festivals in the country, it appeared Shuffle would be relegated to the shelf of forgotten film projects. But this determined group of friends, including star T.J. Thyne—best known for his role as Dr. Jack Hodgins on the Fox series Bones—refused to give up. Thyne even allowed his own home to be used for production meetings, scene locations, and residence for cast and crew during the last two weeks of filming. I find the ups and downs of making a small budget movie exhilarating; their quest was an encouragement to those of us who would eventually like to see our names on the cover of a novel or a screenplay. This film—about a man living his life out of sequence—has all the ear marks of being a watered down version of Christopher Nolan's Memento. In truth, it's a sweet love story, for a man getting a second chance at life.
Facts of the Case
Lovell Milo (T.J. Thyne) doesn't want to be anything like his father. Unfortunately, he is very much like him in one specific area: both men struggle with a serious case of narcolepsy. Unlike daddy, each time Lovell falls asleep, he awakens on a day from his past, or his future. Never knowing when or where he'll find himself, Lovell searches for a solution to this strange dilemma. When it appears that all hope is lost, he's told his affliction is a gift given to him in order to save someone. With a new purpose, Lovell begins paying closer attention to the different places he winds up, hoping he can uncover just who it is he is meant to rescue.
Can you imagine living life non-linearly? You wake up one morning 15 years old, and another 92. You knew your name, and instinctively had a sense of the world that surrounded you, but you are terrified to lay your head down on the pillow, knowing tomorrow you'll be in another place and time. Shuffle is a wonderfully written film that jumps you right into the middle of Lovell Milo's chaotic life from the very first scene. Like Memento, you're figuring things out alongside with the main character, but unlike the Nolan film, Shuffle is humorous and hopeful, where love and even forgiveness are the underlying themes. This is not the thriller the DVD case professes it to be. It is thrilling and has some intense moments, but this is a story of love and redemption.
T.J. Thyne is spot on as Lovell Milo. He's quite funny, where humor is warranted, effortlessly shifting to a serious demeanor during the more dramatic moments. Lovell's life is a mess; he's exhausted all the time, constantly eating, never excited about anything, a ringing phone makes his skin crawl, and a doorbell produces an even worse feeling. We are right there with him, as he tries to stop this runaway rollercoaster, and we care what will become of him.
Lovell's childhood best friend and love interest is Grace (Paula Rhodes, Hollywood Wasteland), a bubbly and eternally positive soul who has more faith in Lovell than he does in himself. Grace's smile and pixie voice are endearing, not only to Lovell, but to the audience as well. She does a great job being that perky friend, without becoming into an annoyance you want to strangle. Graec is the perfect counter to Lovell's generally grumpy persona; but I guess you'd be grumpy too, if you kept waking up every morning at a different point in your life.
Writer and director Kurt Kuenne took his small budget and made a gripping film with multi-layered characters that could be plucked from our own lives. Thyne and Rhodes are the focus, their story setting everything in motion, but they are surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast that solidifies this story. Producer Chris Stone plays Lovell's father; Thyne's Bones co-stars Tamara Taylor plays friend Linda, and Patricia Belcher is Lovell's ever patient therapist; and two very gifted young actors, Dylan Sprayberry and Elle Labadie, are fantastic as young Lovell and Grace.
Kuenne's use of this "out of sequence" technique isn't just a gimmick; it represents a man's life in complete and utter shambles. We get lost in this story and these characters, and they'll stay with you for some time after the film ends. Kuenne created Lovell and Grace as such rich and warm people, it's easy for Thyne and Rhodes to portray them with an honesty that'll resonates with audiences.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the DVD contains the black and white director's cut as well as the color version released in theaters. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track highlights Kuenne's self-composed beautiful score, a haunting and poignant accompaniment to the film. The music gave me chills, and if I can find the soundtrack on CD (which so far seems impossible), I will definitely add it to my collection.
Extras include the theatrical trailer, several video diaries, and a very entertaining "making of" documentary. This behind the scenes tour shows what it takes to get a film from the mind of the writer to the public. "You need an immense amount of patience and drive to get a film made," says Kuenne, especially when you don't have a big studio bank rolling your project. We get to see the actors and director travel across the country to different film festivals peddling their wares, giving us a true appreciation for the hard work everyone put into the making of Shuffle; enlightening and truly entertaining.
When we are inundated with ad campaigns pushing what studios hope to be major blockbusters, we tend to forget there are just as many smaller films being released each year by dedicated filmmakers. Shuffle deserves our attention; it is filmmaking at its finest, regardless of what it cost to produce.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Screen Media
• Director's Cut
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