Shuffle Netflix | DVD Written and Directed by Kurt Kuenne Starring T.J. Thyne, Paula Rhodes, Chris Stone, Dylan Sprayberry, Elle Labadie Screen Media Films Originally Released: October 21, 2011
Ordinarily, while working on a Streaming Review for Geeks of Doom, I habitually have some form of thought receptacle open and ready for any thoughts or ideas or observations that come to mind. Not so for this week’s review: because Shuffle is a movie that commands your attention from its very commencement.
Brimming full of clues, intense scenes, and pivotal lines of dialogue, the movie immediately magnetizes your eyeballs to the screen and demands continuous focus. This week, this wonderfully produced independent movie tore me away from my obsessive geek habit of prematurely and obsessively overanalyzing and dissecting a film as I view it.
Nevertheless, as mentioned, the movie itself commands your attention from a repeated line of dialogue:
Pay attention, dummy!
Then, indeed you should, fellow readers of GoD… for Shuffle is a story that is rich in character development, brilliantly paced, and with enough punches to the heart and moments of "that feel, bro" that will even make the most hardened well up with some water works (no, no, I just have something in my eyes, truthfully). But with all these ingredients, the film places all elements within the context of an incredibly convoluted plot.
While one might ponder Shuffle as one-part Groundhog Day, one-part Mr. Nobody, one-part Click, and one-part Safety Not Guaranteed; it would be incredibly unfair to do so. The movie stands well on its own, and while comparable to other similar films, truly delivers a motivating, captivating, and enjoyable viewing experience.
Shuffle is, on the shell, a time travel story. But at its heart, is a story wrapped around a romantic comedy mixed with serious life drama, in the disguise of the science fiction thriller. We open the tale following a very traumatized and disoriented Lovell Milo (T.J. Thyne).
Lovell Milo, whose name announces like it is being said backwards, has a similar problem to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day – except, he doesn’t always wake up on the same day named after that overrated rodent who I believe to be partially answerable for climate change. Instead, he awakens to a new day in his life – past, present, or future – in which he is reliving an element of his life at different ages. As the syndrome progresses, he learns that this is intentional – he learns that he has a chance to save someone. But who, and how can he save them? He is given a very important instruction:
Pay attention, dummy!
From here, the film becomes a complicated jigsaw puzzle; in which the viewer is magnetically pulled into Lovell’s timey-wimey predicament, as we also try to work out the solutions before him. There are several avenues I could undertake at this point in which I could describe the elements of the plot that matter… but this would cause two things. First, it would most likely spoil the movie for you. And second, it would delimit the prominence of several significant characters that appear in the film – some of them only for a few short cameo-like scenes.
Effectively, Shuffle is one of those films that you just have to see for yourself. Are there twists involved in the movie? Well, sure, but the solid writing of the plot is what makes the movie stand up so well; and while the tension element is important, it doesn’t eclipse the most important aspects: performance quality and character development.
The script, written by director Kurt Kuenne, while complex is exceptionally solid. Lovell’s story mirrors a few popular movies you may have seen (indeed, as a Doctor Who fan, I was a little reminded of the River Song narrative with this movie), but the comparisons end in these lame words poorly describing the movie. Shuffle is a movie to be EXPERIENCED, not told about, and Kuenne’s efforts in developing the characters throughout the film is some of the best work I’ve experienced, with careful attention to detail, and assisted by some excellent performances.
Lead actor T.J. Thyne has an authoritative presence on screen, but it’s deceptive until he starts the "mental journey entries" where he breaks the fourth wall (kinda sorta), and becomes his own narrator. As he goes through several snapshots of his existence, Thyne will make you love him – and HATE him as well; but will (at the end of it all) touch you emotionally. But combined with the beautiful Paula Rhodes (you will love her), who plays life-long love Grace, the two put forth a glittering companionship, selling the relationship and connection completely.
Additionally important are the young actors playing the child era versions of Lovell and Grace. Played by Dylan Sprayberry and Elle Labadie respectively, both young actors portray some incredibly convincing characters, and serve the story splendidly.
The make-up and costuming the work in Shuffle is also exceptional and highly important. The convincing changes to Lovell’s appearance as he wakes at age 92, age 30, age 24 are all incredibly believable. The realism applied really sells the tale brilliantly, and is an aspect of the film that you don’t really consider until after you’ve watched the movie.
Shuffle is chock-a-block of complex personal and emotional moments that accent the story so well. There are a few moments of emotional height that make you feel grief and anger so severely that you will want to PUNCHING THE FUCKING SCREEN. There is a pet-death sequence that hit home with me, bringing a lump to my throat, but it did lead me to another revelation that you probably should be aware of:
Because, reiterated themes, and moments, and words, and memes – some of which do not even add up to the final answer of the algorithm that is Shuffle – become a huge component of the movie overall. Repeated iconography, such as clocks/watches and cameras, play a heavier and more significant role in the movie than what you initially consider.
Verbal clues lace the entire script, as does the timing at which certain characters first appear in the film. The lighting and saturation of shots also play an important role.
When the whole shebang comes full circle (in a non-linear timey wimey way), you will find Shuffle to be an highly satisfying viewing experience – so much so, that you will want to rewatch it so that you can catch all of the clues you overlooked.