While pondering the last time a meaningful film was made in Tobago, I reached out to film critic Jonathan Ali to rack his brains.
“Swiss Family Robinson,” was his tongue-in-cheek reply.
That was 1960. Over half a century later, Quick Pick could so easily have become the second. But it didn’t. For a number of reasons.
Before getting on to those, it ought to be noted that I found this film very funny, to begin with. That it later descended into farce is a shame but, given that it was made on a shoestring budget by a rookie director in just five weeks, ultimately forgiveable.
Among the early scenes, in which the actors veer between dead-panning and shouting, Tiffano Jessop’s cameo as a motorist taking perverse pleasure from the car troubles of our protagonist Travis had me weak.
It is, rather confusingly, one of three characters Jessop plays in the film.
Enjoy that scene while you can, I beg you.
Atrocious casting (including a father and son played by actors of roughly the same age), shameless product placement (essentially extended adverts for the restaurants where the scenes were filmed), questionable production (such as the bottle of red wine which, when poured into a glass, came out as fizzy Coca-Cola), approximately 15 on-screen time stamps in garish fonts (I stopped counting after a while) and two (maybe three) of the most excruciating sex scenes ever committed to film, all contributed to a shambolic end product.
It could have been wrapped up in 45 minutes max, but clocks in at 90.
Do you lead a busy life? No? Then absolutely go and see this film. Yes, and you only have time to see one film at TTFF? Then think carefully. You will laugh, that’s guaranteed (even when laughs were not intended) but you will not get that hour and a half added back on to your life.
All of this said, you may still enjoy this film!
The plot, you ask? It’s very simple. A wotless young man named Travis (David Abraham) stumbles up to a lotto booth with a bottle of Hennessy inside him and buys a ticket. His numbers come in and he wins $1 million. It being the weekend, he must wait until Monday to collect his winnings, but his excitement gets the better of him and he visits a loan shark called ‘Bling’ (Shabba Julien) from whom he borrows a succession of bigger and bigger advances.
An illiterate, workshy womaniser, Travis is clearly intended as a humorous critique of TT’s money-hungry, nouveau riche, instant gratification culture. He sets about spending all the dough (that he doesn’t yet have) like a latter-day Richard Prior in Brewster’s Millions, on “a condo, fresh transport, two hoes, the sky’s the limit…”
As it ends, predictably for Travis and somewhat abruptly for the viewer, this reviewer is left pondering how 24-year-old director Miguel Lashley’s future attempts – perhaps backed, like Quick Pick was, by the fledgling Tobago Filmmakers Association – might successfully occupy the vacant space for a genuinely inspiring film about Tobagonian life.