Lissa Lauria, Elyse Levesque, Curt Mega
Arturo Guzman and Jonathan Talbert
There is something to be said about knowing your audience.
I'm not sure that sending a screener to a well known social justice activist is the brightest idea when the central concept behind your film is a young woman whose terminated employment leads to the bright idea of pretending to be homeless.
To be fair, while Spare Change somewhat rubbed me the wrong way, at least initially, co-directors Arturo Guzman and Jonathan Talbert actually do a nice job of balancing the material and offering at least a wee bit of redemption of sorts. The story centers around Jane (Lissa Lauria, The Walking Dead), a fairly recent college graduate who is terminated from her job and concocts the idea of acting homeless despite the at least modest disapproval of friend and confidante Lily (Elyse Levesque, The Originals). When the plan actually starts to work and Jane starts to bring home more money than she ever could in the corporate world, everything seems set until she brings home a real homeless girl, Elizabeth (Jordy Lucas), and her ex-boyfriend, Aaron (Curt Mega, Glee), shows up having begun working with area non-profit shelters.
What's a girl to do?
Spare Change benefits greatly from the cast that Guzman and Talbert, who've worked as producers on Orange is the New Black, have been able to recruit for this low-budget effort ranging from The Walking Dead vets Lauria and Ross Marquand to Parks and Recreation's Jim O'Heir and Alison Becker to the others already mentioned. There's a comic sensibility in Spare Change that produces laughs even when the film itself doesn't quite gel. While I mentioned being a tad put off by the film's approach, I'm not even remotely opposed to making light of or skewering social issues in unique ways, though I wish that Spare Change had been just a wee bit ballsier if it was really going to go that direction.
The film, which is available on VOD platforms, is a tough sell precisely because Guzman and Talbert, working off a rather relentless script by Stephanie Mathless, maintain integrity by largely filling the flick with unlikable yet compelling characters. Lissa Lauria, in particular, really seems to "get it" and creates a Jane who borders on being a rather repugnant human being but never completely crosses that line. It's a delicate balance, yet it's an important one as a good amount of the humor would have failed if Lauria actually crossed that line.
The chemistry between Lauria and Levesque is believable, a major plus in a film that greatly relies upon the dynamics of that friendship to make everything work. Both actresses are a joy here, though the ambitious film is never quite as smart or funny as I can't help but think it was intended to be. Stephanie Mathless's script is sharp and biting and funny, though the ending lands with a bit of a whimper and I just wish it would have sharpened its edges just a bit. Among the film's supporting players, Alison Becker likely shines mostly brightly in a brief appearance that is still making me laugh.
For more information on Spare Change, visit the film's official Facebook page linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic