With her own award-winning short film as a reference, director Rachel Israel has an auspicious debut on feature-length film with Keep The Change, an offbeat rom-com and urban fiction that worths every minute of your time.
Set in New York City, the story stars the newly arrived Brandon Polansky, whose true experiences were at the base of the script, and Samantha Elisofon, as two gorgeously weird Jewish New Yorkers whose personal troubles are attenuated whenever they are together. He is David, a sensory-overloaded stressed man with a charming posture who belongs to an upper-class family. She is Sarah, a modest, super talkative, all-smiley 24-year-old woman who suffers from a learning disorder. She also loves to flirt with men and sing. Both meet in the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where they attend a support group session for adults with disabilities. Most of the idiosyncratic attendees of these sessions are super funny individuals, but Sammy (Nicky Gottlieb, a natural improviser) is the one who occupies the top of the list as a flamboyant theater aficionado. When asked about which dream he would like to come true, he sensuously described a sexual encounter with David’s cousin, Matt Cone (Johnathan Tchaikovsky), who is a celebrated Broadway actor.
“Most of the idiosyncratic attendees of these sessions are super funny individuals…”
After driving away his Internet girlfriend, Angie (Anna Suzuki), in their first date with an obnoxious rape joke, David is stalked by Sarah, who insists on a previously agreed homework assignment that forces them to take a trip to the Brooklyn Bridge. On their way, and while in a cab, their contrasting personalities and social status become salient again since he likes his mother’s chauffeur to drive him wherever he wants, whereas she only feels at ease when on the bus that takes her to her grandmother’s house, where she lives.
Disregarding differences, the couple shares an unarticulated yet enthusiastic first kiss and then strolls through iconic places like the Central Park, Times Square, and Coney Island, where David’s fears and weaknesses surface in the form of nervous tics. This peculiarity becomes hilarious while they ride on a carousel for children, and the issue is only mitigated with the help of Sarah, who compassionately shows to be there for him. In this scene, she gives rise to the film’s most tender moment.
“…ones fancying unconventional romantic tales should not miss the chance…”
Unfortunately, David wasn’t able to demonstrate a comparable sensibility or consideration when Sarah starts to sing in the presence of his cousin, after having shamelessly disclosed some details regarding their first sexual experience. His embarrassment and reprimand hurt her feelings, compromising a relationship that was precociously inclined to marriage. Would he be able to live without her?
The spontaneous performances of the duo are half the battle for the success, but definitely, Ms. Israel is also influential and decisive as she merges both the comedy and drama genres with gracious artistry. Additionally, the jokes work pretty well, and the street images, sleekly captured by cinematographer Zachary Halberd, glow with a warm color temperature that is visually arresting.
The New York-based company Kino Lorber acquired the rights to the film for distribution in North America. Hence, ones fancying unconventional romantic tales should not miss the chance of watching this little gem on the big screen. Besides the good laughs, Keep The Change enchants with the authenticity, zaniness, and warm-heartedness that naturally emerge from the sympathetic characters.
Keep The Change (2018) Written and Directed by Rachel Israel. Starring Brandon Polansky, Samantha Elisofon, Nicky Gottlieb, Johnathan Tchaikovsky.
8 out of 10