September 1, 2013


Desperate Acts of Magic - DVD Cover
(Note: Special thanks to Gold Cap Films for providing a complimentary screener DVD for review)

Back in the early days of the blog, I reviewed a small, independently produced film called Never Say Macbeth. I liked it, and was pleased to receive a copy of Tammy Caplan and Joe Tyler Gold's follow-up, Desperate Acts of Magic. At the risk of an overly cute tag line, Desperate Acts of Magic accomplishes great narrative sleight of hand, starting as a near-typical romantic comedy and becoming a sharp, entertaining gem which deserves a wider audience.

Desperate Acts of Magic - Joe Tyler GoldTaking advantage of a "Fire-tunity", Jason (Joe Tyler Gold) decides to pursue his dream of being a successful magician, much like his pal Steve (Jonathan Levitt). In one of the most original "meet cutes" ever written, Jason meets Stacy (Valerie Dillman), who is looking to make the big time as a female magician. After insulting Stacy, Jason is inspired to create a new act - one which uses the magician/assistant relationship to focus on larger issues. Shenanigans a-plenty ensue as Jason attempts to win back Stacy, deal with his pal Steve, train new assistant Ellen (Sascha Alexander), and hopefully, gain entry into the world of magicians....

What elevates Desperate Acts of Magic from being just another cookie-cutter romantic comedy is the misdirection of the script. Places where you might expect it to fall into cliche, the story moves into a slightly different direction. Rather than pull familiar rabbits out of hats, Desperate Acts provides plenty of colorful twists, some dead-on performances, and quite honestly, some exceptional film making.

Desperate Acts of Magic - Valerie Dillman
(One of the film's selling points is that much of the magic is done "on camera", and this would be impressive enough...but the movie goes several steps further. One key scene - where Stacy is performing a magic act with a video playing in the background - is very well-edited, and never feels indulgent - it's the best sequences in the entire film. Listen to the director's commentary, and you'll not only get the usual behind-the-scenes information, but you will also get a great crash course in guerilla filmmaking. Although it took a long time to complete this film, the craft and care with which Desperate Acts of Magic was made shows in every single frame.)

Desperate Acts of Magic will be available on DVD on September 10th, and their web site lists other viewing options....but this is definitely a movie to check out. Unlike its bigger budget cousins, Desperate Acts of Magic is a smart, funny, well-scripted movie that manages to accomplish its feats without any smoke or mirrors. Definitely worth seeking.

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