Spent

I’ll just say it. I’ve spent the last few days figuring out how exactly to approach this film. Spent is a really bad movie. I get it. It’s hard making a movie. Writer/director Lisa Mikitarian accomplished what countless numbers of would-be filmmakers only dream of doing–finish a film. This is me trying to be nice before getting into the details of what is massively wrong with Mikitarian’s first film.

Spent poses the question: what would you do if a rich member of the family miraculously recovers from a life-ending brain tumor and you’ve already spent the inheritance?

“In a Fourth of July miracle, Herb’s brain tumor disappears.”

From a distance, the story of Spent isn’t that bad, relatively speaking. The premise is interesting with elements of originality. Herb (Nick Nerangis) has a giant brain tumor and is hours away from dying. Impatient for his inevitable death, wife Evelyn goes deep into Herb’s nest egg, buys lavish jewelry, and begins an affair with Gregory (Tony Villa). Son Lonnie (Darren Barzagar) not only has his eye on purchasing an expensive classic car, but he has an eye on its dealer, Margot (Madeline Mikitarian).

In a Fourth of July miracle, Herb’s brain tumor disappears. Evelyn and Lonnie race to return everything back to the way it was before with the help of their respective paramours. It’s clear they’re transgressions are irreversible, so the only option is…rat poison. From the very beginning, this simple story takes a very wrong turn.

While the story may have been good, the specifics are awful. I’ll start with characters. The main problem is a voice. Every single character speaks the same way as if their dialogue was written by one person, which it was. The tone, cadence, and the manner in which characters speak are virtually identical. Take, for example, supporting characters Gregory and Margot. They might as well be twins based on performance and characterization.

On top of that, the dialogue is incredibly pretentious. I get that as a writer, you can’t have a script full of bland dialogue, but that doesn’t mean you go to the other extreme of being overly poetic. Characters, at a minimum, should speak as normal people do. Here’s my favorite exchange between villainous lovers Gregory and Margot.

Gregory: Do you know how beautiful you are?
Margot: I am.

“Mikitarian accomplished what countless numbers of would-be filmmakers only dream…finish a film.”

Most lines of dialogue are wordy and confusing. You can tell that the actors had a hard time figuring out how to say the lines naturally. Let alone memorize them. Bad editing also made these lines of dialogue drone on forever.

There is a visual inconsistency that lasts throughout the entire film. I kept wondering what era it took place. According to the film’s synopsis, it’s supposed to take place in the 40’s. I could go on about the duel era costumes, cars, computers and the existence of Yelp, but I know a thing about money to understand that maybe a complete 40’s transformation was not in the budget.

This is the element that confounds me the most. The film is in both black and white and in color. The first time it switches to black and white, I thought there was a problem with my television, and then it went back to color. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but there didn’t seem to be a reason for the switches.

Some find joy in trashing a film. There is that little devil on your shoulder that is coaxing you to do it. I’m certain this project was a labor of love by Mikitarian and her crew, and I don’t need to be a dick about it. All I can do is be honest. Spent is a really bad movie.

Spent (2017) Written and directed by Lisa Mikitarian. Starring Nick Nerangis, Connie Lamothe, Darren Barzegar, Tony Villa, Madeline Mikitarian.

1 out of 5 stars

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