Full Disclosure: I contributed $10 to the Kickstarter that funded this film, written and produced by Deborah Puette and co-starring Puette and Navid Negahban (“Homeland’). I met Deborah on Twitter (@deborahpuette) when I tweeted a joke wondering where the producers of “True Blood” found actors that could move so fast, and Deborah, who had recently filmed a role in that series, responded to it with a funny reply. We followed each other, which is when I started paying attention to her career and how I came to know about the Kickstarter.
I am in no way qualified to review a movie, but I am fascinated by this small film which, like the Tardis on “Doctor Who,” is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. There is a lot packed into these few minutes.
The thing “works” even with the sound turned off. (I accidentally discovered this while viewing it at the office with my speakers muted.) Puette didn’t write a short story and then film it. She wrote a film. I don’t know if she did that consciously or if, because she’s an actor, when she writes she’s thinking more about how she will use her body to portray what’s happening in the scene and the necessary emotions than she’s thinking about how the words will sound. I don’t say this to take away from the importance of the dialogue, but to point out how it is but a part of the tapestry that is this film.
These Kickstarter things can so easily become “vanity projects.” Cash for Gold has not a trace of that. While it is, of course, primarily designed to showcase Puette’s many talents (it’s her “baby”), a less secure actor would never have asked someone of Negahban’s stature to co-star. She’s smart enough to know the whole thing is elevated when two good actors are standing toe-to-toe. They make each other better. I’m not sure a good actor can make a bad actor better. And how did she resist the temptation to direct? If I were to write a short film, I’d want to direct it, so I’d have complete control over the thing, but, of course, “that way madness lies.” Turning her “baby” over to director Robert Enriquez was a smart thing to do. His direction was seamless, deftly serving the story without drawing attention to itself. I wish all directors understood that that is really what the job is supposed to be.
I don’t usually like things that are “uplifting” and “inspirational,” because they’re so often sappy. There’s nothing sappy about this film.
I cannot watch anything that takes place in a little shop without having it evoke at least 12 episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” I’m sure Puette wasn’t going for any kind of a sci-fi vibe, but the fact is something unexpected and magical happens here. At first I found it somewhat jarring that there was not a wide shot of her when she entered the shop, showing both the door and the counter, maybe through a black-and-white surveillance cam. The lack of this shot tells me that, perhaps for practical purposes, the scenes of her at the iron grate door were filmed at a different location. (We like the door on this shop and we like the interior of this other shop. Let’s use them both.) Then I decided it works better this way. When she enters that door, she is, indeed, metaphysically “jumping” to a different place in space and time. The hubbub and harshness of the street is gone. Anything could happen in this place, in this different world. Negahban greets her like he has been there eternally, perhaps waiting for her.
I love the duality of the “two windows.” I don’t know if she wrote it that way or, when scouting locations found a shop with two windows at the counter and decided to use both of them, but OMG, for me that just put this film on a whole ‘nother level. There’s an old story about, when you die, you’ll be escorted to two doors. One marked “Heaven” and one marked “Hell,” and you have to choose which to enter. This evoked that.
It’s tempting to believe that he gave her something at the end. That it was an act of charity on his part. I’ve come to believe, after repeated viewings, that she gave him something: an opportunity to break free of his father, a chance to act on his own, and a chance to connect, on a non-business level, with another human being. She gave him life, and it shocked him. He seems surprised at what he’s doing. I don’t believe all the ranting he does was for his father’s benefit. I think it was for his own. “The ring is worth nothing.” One hundred…two hundred…three hundred…”Go!” In the opening scene, we see a picture of a child hanging from the rear view mirror of Puette’s car. We assume she’s hocking valuables to support him. Negahban didn’t see that. He doesn’t know WHAT she needs the money for. Maybe drugs, maybe booze. He has no clue, and yet he is able to step out of himself, see himself as her, and give her some help. Notice he does not smile when he’s handing her the hundred dollar bills AND returning the ring to her, nor does he smile afterward, because, at this point, he is her, humbly receiving the help of another human being, a being so different from himself and yet so much the same.