With the job market being a Hunger Games-esque war zone for young twenty-somethings, homelessness is unfortunately becoming more and more common. Young adults are constantly struggling with not only figuring out how to pay the bills, but also how to find a job that doesn’t make them want to kill themselves every day. Spare Change might give those uninspired young’uns a brand new idea to formulate. If you’ve seen Frances Ha or Obvious Child, you already know the gist of it: a goofball woman suddenly is hit in the face with reality and has to figure out what to do with her life. It’s pretty generic, but first-time directors Arturo Guzman and Jonathan Talbert both manage to make it goofy yet enjoyable.
After they both get fired from their jobs, Jane Dorrin (Lissa Loria) and Lily Horowitz (Elyse Levesque) try to create a real business model centered around begging. Jane is the employee trying to come up with creative ways to earn some cash while Lily is the CEO of the corporation. They try to run their business in secret, especially when Jane’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron (Curt Mega), comes back from the Peace Corps to run a non-profit for the homeless.
Loria does a decent job in her debut role. She resembles Greta Gerwig both in looks and personality but comes off as much more flamboyant. She dishes out one-liners like no other and, surprisingly, they don’t get old (though the word skunch, sadly, will never get popular enough). She and Horowitz were one of the strongest elements of the film. The focus on Lily and Jane’s relationship felt authentic, similiar to Ann Perkins and Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. It sounded like they weren’t even acting with each other, especially when they were constantly shooting snarky dialogue at each other.
In fact, It would have been much more effective just to have the two of them together on screen rather than adding in love interests. The romantic relationships felt extremely forced and left a very uninteresting conclusion. The relationship between Aaron and Jane was probably needed to progress the story, but Lily and Steve wasn’t essential at all. Their relationship consisted of a couple of scenes of meeting and a tiny fraction of their relationship. It looked like it was leading up to much more, but it died down and was forgotten about.
The plot on its own sounded fun but was very limiting on where to go. Making a business about begging sounded like an interesting set-up, but the writers did nothing with it. It would have been nice to see what went into the business and how on earth Jane makes over 1600 dollars at every session, but all the audience gets is a short montage of her coming up with ways to get people out of their money. It actually feels like more of a side story, but I suppose the underlying message was what the writer was trying to get at (something about being young and entitled, right?). It’s didn’t help either that the directors tried to quickly wrap up the film in the last ten minutes. It results in a rushed ending that wraps up things a little too nicely.
Spare Change isn’t the worst romantic comedy in the world, but there is nothing that stands out. It’s pretty standard and seems to be just a checklist full of “chick flick” tropes. However, I’ve always been a sucker for this genre. Durrin and Levesque’s chemistry is the biggest highlight of the film and makes up for the story’s weakness. Talbert and Guzman are producers on Netflix’s hit show Orange Is the New Black, so it doesn’t surprise that they were able to make not only great female characters, but also a deep friendship between them.