Overview: After being fired from her job, Jane discovers that she can earn more cash pretending to be homeless than she can in a cutthroat world of trying to climb the corporate ladder. 2015, 97 minutes.
Entitled to Entitlement: No shortage of criticism or blanket labels exists these days when it comes to millennials. Whether it’s sweeping diagnoses of “laziness,” “entitlement,” or just “selfish, bratty attitudes,” Generation Y is by and large assessed by the rest of the world as being a general pain in the ass. In Spare Change, Jane (Lissa Lauria) embodies all of these reputable characteristics. She’s self-absorbed, perpetually late, unambitious, and completely oblivious of any greater good or how her actions are impacting others. She manages to victimize herself when her boyfriend leaves to join the Peace Corps and disguises herself as homeless to earn money in order to avoid the work that goes in to actually finding a job, subsequently stealing money from those who actually need it the most.
Growing Pains: The casting of Lauria as Jane is spot on, and Writer Stephanie Mathless’ script, combined with Lauria’s sassy line delivery, makes for an abrasive, unsympathetic, yet somehow still oddly likable character. It might be easier for some to dismiss her as nothing more than a typical millennial. Or is she just a typical 20-something, stumbling her way along the un-pioneered path to 21st Century adulthood? She lies, she cheats, she manipulates, trying to earn the easiest buck she can. Can she be blamed for this? She’s still growing up. Which is why her lightning-fast turnaround during the final act of the film seems rushed and disingenuous; must we wrap up all sudden growth and change of heart in a tidy bow? As a fellow millennial, I will readily admit that I still haven’t learned it all, and I don’t foresee a narrative, convenient twist getting me there.
House of Lies: At one point in the film, Jane’s lies become so consuming that she admits walking the streets and becoming skeptical of those around her who are trying to get by with nothing. It’s disheartening, then, to learn that she’s half right as she discovers one of her fellow comrades isn’t exactly who she appears to be either. So is the lesson here that no matter which path we choose, we all end up in the same place? Or is it that we’re all really just doing what we can to look out for number one? Either way, the biggest, most honest, and most necessary takeaway from Spare Change should be that we all need to be humble enough to realize we have some growing up to do.
Overall: Spare Change suffers from some growing pains and a quick sprint to the finish line, but it ends up as a smart and honest look at generational stereotypes and how they are both reinforced and subverted by real, human perspective.