One of the perils of watching too much television and too many movies is over time you’re watching the same old plots and stories over and over again. Hey, it’s another boy meets girl, overcoming adversity, unlikely partners, etc. Now change standard premises into wacky premises, and you have the problem with today’s comedies.
Matthew Atkinson’s Room for Rent is a welcome relief to the worn-out story of the mysterious stranger. He throws in enough twists and turns to make his film feel fresh.
“Brett Gelman is fantastic as Carl, the trusting untrustworthy catalyst of Mitch’s demise…”
While in high school, Mitch Baldwin’s (Mark Little) life changes when he wins the lottery. Jump ahead a few years; the money is gone. Mitch has become a recluse, still living with his parents, Warren and Betty (Mark McKinney and Stephnie Weir). After being laid off as a financial planner, Warren announces that they need to reduce expenses and sell the Baldwin home. The only way to save their home is for Mitch to find a job. Rather than work, Mitch concocts the idea to move into the garage and rent his room.
In comes Carl (Brett Gelman), a mysterious stranger who immediately answers the recently dropped ad. Warren and Betty are unsure about Carl until Carl pulls out a huge wad of cash and pays several months up front.
Soon Carl endears himself to Warren and Betty, leaving Mitch outside the new friendship circle. Carl then inserts himself into Mitch’s past forcing Mitch to confront his ex-girlfriend, Lindsay (Carla Gallo) and the bully, Huey (Patrick J. Adams), that took advantage of a rich, naïve Mitch years before. Mitch, in turn, begins to uncover inconsistencies in Carl’s stories.
“The best performances are from Mark McKinney and Stephnie Weir and their understated role as Mitch’s parents.”
What I like about Room for Rent is the freshness writer/director Matthew Atkinson brings to the mysterious stranger trope. Rather see the wacky antics of a stranger, the focus of the story is on Mitch and the lives he affected after winning the lottery both good and bad…mostly bad. Brett Gelman is fantastic as Carl, the trusting untrustworthy catalyst of Mitch’s demise.
The film’s best performances are from Mark McKinney and Stephnie Weir and their understated role as Mitch’s parents. Every good comic has an unleashed dramatic side. Both keep their characters grounded in reality, so you buy into the wackiness coming from Mitch and Carl. And both provide a real moment of parenting that Mitch desperately needs.
In all honesty, there’s not a lot of deep laughs. But Room for Rent is a funny, light comedy that stays a step ahead of the audience. It’s solid story and with solid performances worth checking out.
Room for Rent (2017) Written and Directed by Matthew Atkinson. Starring Brett Gelman, Mark Little, Mark McKinney, Stephnie Weir.
3.5 out of 5 stars