By Miranda Schiller @mirandadadada
Quirky twenty-something underachiever Jane gets fired from her job for being too quirky and underachieving and has to come up with a way of earning a living that doesn’t involve having to be on time or doing any actual work. For the spoilt child of rich parents she is, begging on the streets isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but after being mistaken for a beggar by a sympathetic passer-by, she and her equally privileged friend start a businesslike begging operation. After having Lily draw up a plan of strategies adapted to each LA neighbourhood, Jane suddenly makes over $1000 a day, and any moral qualms are brushed aside by masking the whole thing as a “social experiment”.
Lily (Elyse Levesque) and Jane (Lissa Lauria) come across as funny, quick-on-their-feet young women whose on-screen relationship seems very natural. It’s fun to watch them throw quips at each other and have a laugh together. It would have been more fun to have a little more insight into their “business”, e.g. how exactly Jane manages to make more money than all other homeless people, or what Lily’s role as CEO involves other than coming up with a few stereotypes about city neighbourhoods at the beginning. In this way, the two characters join the ranks of all young people in generic rom-coms or TV shows – no realistic source of income, but living in a swanky apartment and with lots of time on their hands to go out for brunch or cocktails.
Anyway, plausibility of the begging scheme’s success aside, it all goes awry when Lily’s former boyfriend, aka the love of her life who broke her heart, suddenly returns from his stunt at Peace Corps. Of all places, he works with a homeless charity and now Lily has to hide and lie even more. And a hint of a moral dilemma creeps back in when she befriends a girl her age who is actually homeless and makes a lot less money begging. Or so she thinks… plot twist upon plot twist.
Despite an interesting premise and two strong female characters, Spare Change does not reach beyond standard rom-com fare. Although the two lead actors both do a great job at making their slightly ridiculous characters seem natural and neither too loveable nor too horrible, the writing counteracts their efforts at times – if these are supposed to be “millennials”, why are they so inept at using social media? Who in their mid-twenties looks for jobs in a paper and wonders if friendster is still a thing? Who says things like “The only person you’ve ever been like, oh my God I love you, with”? Unless this is supposed to make fun of the way young people speak, but it doesn’t come across that way.
Ultimately, the film succumbs to familiar rom-com tropes and loses sight of the plot it had started out with. This could have been a much more interesting film if it had concentrated more on the exploits of the two girls instead of giving in to the standard development of on-screen romance, or, alternatively, put more heart and soul in the romance aspect. As it is, it seems undecided and vague. All that being said, it is still worth a watch if only for Levesque’s and Lauria’s performances, and a good few laugh-out-loud funny scenes especially in the first half of the film.
Spare Change is now available on all VOD platforms, it was released August 4th.