Set almost entirely inside a West Philadelphia java house, "Café," a stagey if competently acted ensemble drama, written and directed by Marc Erlbaum, follows the shop's various denizens over one consequential week. The problem is that, although the staff's and customers' concerns may be of relative import to their characters, their issues largely come off as either mundane or clichéd — or both.
An overly earnest musician (Daniel Eric Gold) harbors a crush on his pretty co-barista (Jennifer Love Hewitt) who's dating an abusive jerk (Gavin Bellour); a married man (Derek Cecil) gets to know an attractive blond (Michaela McManus) he met at the movies; a forthright social worker (Cecelia Ann Birt) grills potential staffers; a genial cop (Clayton Prince) monitors his drug-addicted cousin (Garrett Hendricks) who's in debt to a callous dealer (Jamie Kennedy); and a husky loner (Hubbel Palmer) explores the possibility that he's an avatar living in a virtual world (huh?) created by a brainy young girl (Madeline Carroll).
It's all being documented by a nosy writer (Richard Short) with an underwhelming secret.
Unfortunately, these story lines don't all effectively intertwine beyond their shared location, and the convoluted fantasy elements that eventually rule are of the sore thumb variety.
"Café." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.