This review was written for the theatrical screening of "Caffeine." 

Steaming Hot Coffee

The claustrophobic and poorly executed "Caffeine" is either a play in search of a movie or a movie in search of a play but, either way, it's searching for the wrong thing. What it desperately needs are laughs. How Mena Suvari, "Grey's Anatomy's" Katherine Heigl and Breckin Meyer of "Road Trip" wound up in this forlorn affair is anybody's guess. The exploratory release of this 2005 film in two Los Angeles theaters should lead nowhere.

Written by Dean Craig and directed by John Cosgrove, both first-timers, the movie never leaves a London coffeehouse where staff and patrons come unglued during a lunch hour. The makers strain to make every character a misfit, mostly in the area of relationships and sexual peccadilloes.

So over their lattes, everyone confronts his or her individual issues: cross-dressing, exhibitionism, spanking, group sex, cheating mates, in one case mental illness -- hardly funny -- and in another the discovery that the love of your life had a career in porn. Occasionally, patrons suffer from "visions," tamely staged sequences of the peccadillo of the moment.

None of this is sexy or funny. Just head-scratchingly dumb. Curiously, the cafe is about as English as a cowboy bar. The film was shot on a set in the Santa Clarita Studios in Southern California with most of the cast using bad fake accents. Why anyone bothered is a mystery since nothing is gained from the supposedly British setting.

About the only actor who doesn't embarrass herself is Marsha Thomason, who actually is British born. She gives a level-headed, grounded performance as the cafe's owner-manager. Otherwise, above and below the line, few performances qualify as professional.