Spent is a 2017 a dark comedy with a vintage vibe about a wife and son who live it up while their miser-rat of a husband/father lies in a hospital bed.
It’s a little hard to put your finger on what’s going on with Lisa Mikitarian‘s Spent, a low budget indie film that takes its cues from farcical comedies of the 1950s with a dash of contemporary zing. It works hard to be packed full of razz-ma-tazz and zippy dialogue leaving it a curious experience that no doubt will divide audiences, not because it’s controversial or even off-putting but rather just plain odd, a wickedly dark comedy that grows on you the more you let it sink in.
Evelyn Schumacher (Connie Lamothe) and her son Lonnie (Darren Barzegar) are living the high life, spending money and making plans, believing there’s nothing but fulfilled dreams just around the corner. Problem is, there’s bad news. The gravy train is about to come to station when they find out Herbert (Nick Nerangis) isn’t going to die. Who’s Herbert? He’s Evelyn’s husband and Lonnie’s father and he was supposed to be checking out due to a massive tumor in his brain but lo, a Fourth of July miracle arrives and he sees a full recovery. Now mother and son have some thinking to do, and with the help of her new secret beau Gregory (Tony Villa) and Lonnie’s platinum blonde gal Margo (Madeline Mikitarian), take to seeing a devious plot come together. But can they see it through?
If there’s anything about Spent that works, it’s the broad mix of old school aesthetics with a careful layer of modernism, the Schumacher house a veritable time capsule to the post-war era while the outside world continues on in present time. Well, most of it. Margo, for example, tools around in a vintage Cadillac and wears headscarves and broaches. There are other purposeful anachronistic touches throughout but it’s the story that is meant to be more derivative of the times, a simple murder scheme gone sour by all sorts of misdirection and happenstance. Parts of the film are even filmed in black & white.
Mikitarian, in her feature film debut, also wrote the screenplay and is clearly trying to do something a little different even as it clings to the past. There are hints of slapstick and melodrama, though none quite as on target as the greats, missing the peaks and valleys the genre demands, though there are some surprising hits that do score, more so if you’re a fan of this cinematic style. You have to let yourself indulge in the left-of-center direction it goes for with every character talking and acting like community theater veterans who haven’t quite nailed the timing right. In fact, the whole production sort of has a backstreet stage play vibe to it and for what it’s worth, clicks when it’s working. The problem is that it gets bogged down with some moments that really slow it to a crawl and for a film that should be ticking along with a steady beat, loses too much momentum in the second half.
There are other issues as well, including some loose ends, and the movie doesn’t get nearly as dark as it really seems like it should, however, there is good fun in bits and for a debut, shows a lot of promise. Movies need to experiment and tweak with expectations and it’s good to see a filmmaker trying to do so. It’ll be interesting to see what Mikitarian pulls off next.
Spent opens in LA theaters and is available On Demand December 15.
Movie description: Spent is a 2017 a dark comedy with a vintage vibe about a wife and son who live it up while their miser-rat of a husband/father lies in a hospital bed.
Director(s): Lisa Mikitarian
Actor(s): Connie Lamothe, Nick Nerangis, Darren Barzegar