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Dr. Cheapskate (2016) Review

After a bitter divorce from a woman who took him for everything, a man lives life on the cheap, struggling to find a reason to try for love again.

The romantic comedy in mainstream Hollywood has played itself nearly out, like anything that has made any kind of money, forced to be safe and follow the formula as closely as possible, and never take risks. That leaves many independent movie makers with the freedom to explore, and while the indie scene itself is starting to bend under its own weight, there are many great, small budget films that deserve some attention.

Dr. Cheapskate
Ray Rosales (Dr. Cheapskate, 2016)

Dr. Cheapskate is the story of Dr. Dana Kelly (Ray Rosales), an anesthesiologist who moves from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas and having lost nearly everything in a divorce to a gold-digging ex-wife, lives as barren a lifestyle as he can, pinching pennies in every corner of his existence. Nearly everything he owns, including his clothes, are from goodwill.He buys pre-paid phones, and reuses his floss. He also keeps to himself, staying home when he can, unless it’s to find a good deal somewhere. One day, after haggling a goodwill owner down a few bucks on a used toaster, he bumps into old high school classmate Beau Silver (Scott Dean) who convinces him to join another friend named Hunter (Andrew Key) for some poker. All the men are single, but only Hunter, who is tall, chiseled, and model-attractive, is having any luck with girls. He’s shallow, conceited, and very cocky. He’s currently on a quest to have sex with 50 women in 50 weeks. Not long after, while the boys are hanging out at the pool at Beau’s apartment complex, Hunter, who continually has women on his arms, sees a lovely girl in a bikini named Stephanie (Robin Hines), and decides she is going to be Number 47. He bets he can have sex with her before either of the boys can even kiss another woman, with the loser having to be the other’s manservant for two weeks. They accept and the now it’s a race to see get Dana a date.

Directed by Jason Ancona, Dr. Cheapskate is a rom-com by nature but takes the side of the men, especially Dana, the center of the story and well-performed by Rosales, a natural actor with a lot of charisma. He’s not your typical leading man, nor is he cast to be so, but he pulls us in easily and we soon care, a lot, about his future. He’s surrounded by two friends who are archetypes to be sure, slightly over-exaggerated by design, to be the polar opposites on the man-friend spectrum. Neither reach the intensity or dynamic that Rosales has, but they both serve their parts well. 

The film is simple and honest, a close-quarters story that isn’t, despite its title, cheap with its approach. There’s aren’t back-to-back pop songs and overly sentimental musical cues to manipulate the audience, and these people are people, average looking men and women who feel authentic in an authentic setting. In particular is a sequence where Dana meets women for dates he met through an online dating service, and in any other movie, this would be the quirky montage of ‘disaster dates’ with wildly eccentric characters and lots of pratfalls, but Ancona, who also wrote the script, doesn’t go there, instead keeping these woman genuine and seeing that it’s Dana’s insecurities that lead to failure. It’s a nice touch.

The thin plot is surprisingly endearing, though it would have been nice to explore more about Dana’s frugality and the effects it sustains in his life. Ancona wisely doesn’t make his behavior the defining feature of Dana, despite the number of instances where his cheapness is exhibited, but I would have liked to have seen a little more depth to his character. There’s a wonderful shot of Dana in a lawyer’s office negotiating his divorce, and it’s perfectly framed as he succumbs to the pressure and agony of it all. It’s moments like this that should have populated a few more moments in the movie, though Rosales is really very good throughout.


Dr. Cheapskate (2016)

Director(s): Jason Ancona

Actor(s): Ray Rosales, Scott Dean, Andrew Key

Genre: Drama

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