When Jason Kant (Joe Tyler Gold) loses his job as a software designer, he sees it as a sign that it’s time for him to pursue his true passion: magic. With the help of his best friend and established magician Steve Kramer (Jonathan Levit), Jason decides to enter a big magic competition in San Diego. He coincidentally meets Stacy Dietz (Valerie Dillman), another struggling magician who likes to pick pockets to make ends meet and Jason soon asks her to be a part of his act, but when she gets offended by his use of the term “assistant” he’s forced to recruit Steve’s new girlfriend Ellen (Sascha Alexander) to help.
Desperate Acts of Magic functions largely as a romantic comedy, but fortunately is not as easy to predict as the standard romcom. Structurally, the film is very strong, with the story unfolding in ways that twist and turn and keep the audience guessing. This is mostly effective, but there are definitely times when the filmmakers throw in a red herring or some other means to throw off the audience or stall a reveal. In these cases, the film starts to feel lost, and the story gets boring. This ranges from mildly annoying to making absolutely no sense.
Probably my favorite part of the film is when Jason and Ellen first perform their act. The two have a great back and forth, and one of the rare moments of legitimate chemistry in the film. Both actors’ performances feel genuine in that scene, but really only that scene. Sascha Alexander demonstrates that she is a good actress, but maybe the flaws in her character are at the script level as she floats through this film embodying the stereotype of a crazy stalker fan. She moves from love interest to love interest, is prone to random acts of melodrama, and doesn’t change throughout the entire film. Joe Tyler Gold’s performance on the other hand was way too presentational. Aside from the aforementioned performance scene, he finds it really difficult to achieve a realistic moment in the film. He’s always slightly over the top in his emotions and that makes it difficult to forget you’re watching a movie. Maybe the only reason Gold delivers such a poor performance is that he also wrote and co-directed the film. His characters aren’t flushed out well enough to start with, and maybe the other director, Tammy Caplan, wasn’t able to convince her colleague to try it a better way.
Desperate Acts of Magic is a Gold Cap Film and opens in New York on May 3, and Los Angeles on May 10.