Desperate Acts of Magic: Film Review

Desperate Acts of Magic film Still - H 2013
Christopher Jackson

Desperate Acts of Magic film Still - H 2013

Illusionist chops aren't matched by cinematic ones in slight rom-com.

Filmmaker/star Joe Tyler Gold draws on his own experience as a birthday-party magician in a low-budget comedy.

A homemade rom-com built around its makers' enthusiasm for slight of hand, Desperate Acts of Magic is clearly peopled with performers who take their card tricks seriously, but doesn't have the resources to convincingly conjure that subculture as a backdrop for the contrived love story at its core. Members of the rabbit-out-of-hat community may respond warmly, but it will have difficulty attracting attention elsewhere.

Writing, starring and sharing directing duties with Tammy Caplan, Joe Tyler Gold draws upon his own experience as a birthday-party magician here, playing a hobbyist who tries to break into the pro scene after being fired from his office job. Gold's Jason gets half-hearted encouragement from Steve (Jonathan Levit), an old magic-camp pal who's become successful enough to keep his bed warm with volunteers from the audience.

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In what must be the first-ever instance of a shell-game grifter setting up his table beside a dumpster in a suburban office park, Jason gets his wallet taken by the con man's partner Stacy (Valerie Dillman). Doubling down on the implausibility, the script then has Stacy call her mark up for a date -- turns out, she's an aspiring magician as well, and finds this milquetoast conjurer appealing.

If none of this is remotely convincing (Gold may be good at kids' parties, but he needs some practice both in front of and behind a camera), it's amiably dopey. When Jason enters a small competition after fumbling his date with Stacy, only to find himself competing against her, they enact their personal issues in the kind of on-the-nose but cute routines aspiring magicians work up at real-world places like Tannen's Magic Camp. From there it's just a flick of the wand and a puff of smoke before Desperate Acts produces the payoff everyone expects and nobody believes.

Production Company: Gold Cap Films

Cast: Joe Tyler Gold, Valerie Dillman, Jonathan Levit, Sascha Alexander, John Getz

Directors-Producers-Editors: Tammy Caplan, Joe Tyler Gold

Screenwriter: Joe Tyler Gold

Executive producers: Lee Aronsohn, Marvin Gold, Barbara Gold

Director of photography: Brian Taylor

Production designer:

Music: Bruce Kiesling

No rating, 86 minutes