VOD Releases: Spent (2017) - Reviewed

Evelyn Schumacher (Connie Lamothe) and her son Lonnie (Darren Barzegar) have been under the thumb of miserly family patriarch Herbert (Nick Nerangis) for far too long. He is a successful businessman, but he refuses to spend any money on anything. As Spent begins, he is in a coma with a massive brain tumor and given days, maybe even hours, to live. Evelyn and Lonnie stand to inherit everything. Evelyn has plans with her lover, women’s clothing boutique shop owner Gregory (Tony Villa). Lonnie wants to buy a fancy car to impress seductive car saleswoman Margot (Madeline Mikitarian). Then, miraculously, Herbert wakes up. The rest of the film concerns Evelyn and Lonnie’s (and Gregory and Margot’s) attempts to salvage their plans in a story that rests uneasily somewhere between farce and dark comedy. 

One of the bigger issues with Spent is that tonal inconsistency. It is too odd to be dramatic and not wacky enough to be funny. For the dark comedy aspect to work, the characters and their actions have to be believable. But these do not feel like real people. They feel like movie characters reciting movie dialogue. Spent consistently feels like it is on the verge of farce, but the characters are not mean enough and, especially at the end, the drama is far too earnest to be funny. 

Take Herbert, for instance, whose amazing recovery sets much of the story in motion. He is convincingly set up as a cheap curmudgeon before he even appears on screen. But upon waking, he is not nearly mean enough to be funny. He is actually far more reasonable than his wife and son. I found him to be the most sympathetic character in the film (though his stinginess does supply the film’s best line: after having a pizza delivered to him he tells the deliverers “In lieu of a tip, I’m going to go upstairs and give you a glowing Yelp review”). 

The second biggest mistake Lisa Mikitarian makes with Spent is that she fell in love with her own dialogue. It is understandable, especially considering this is her directorial debut. But so much of it feels like forced “clever” dialogue. Her characters talk and talk and talk. The only actor who consistently pulls it off is Nerangis as the selfish Herbert. There is just so much unnecessary exposition. Though a lot goes on in the plot, it is pretty easy to follow. There is no reason for the characters to keep explaining every plot turn and emotion change. It slows down the pace of a film that is a little too slow to begin with and completely sinks the two protagonists (especially poor Lonnie who ends up looking like a giant idiot due to all of his emotional swings). 

Spent is a film that unfolds in a way that suggests its makers have seen too many movies (or maybe they just watched I Love You to Death too many times). There is clearly some talent on display, but there is no consistency in terms of tone or character (the ending is also very poorly handled). This material presented in either a much darker or more over-the-top way could potentially have yielded an enjoyable comedy. As is, Spent is just a bunch of ideas that never come together to create something entertaining. 

Share this review.

-Ben Pivoz