Spent: Written and Directed by Lisa Mikitarian based on a concept by Stephen French, Executive Producer Sam Mikitarian
Spent is a movie as quaint as the small town it’s set in. This first feature film by writer-director Lisa Mikitarian lives by the adage voiced by one of its characters to “go big, or go home”.
The lingering camera is big, the stylized performances are big, and the deliberately off-kilter design is big. Many films by a writer/director fail to find a unique voice and are unremarkable for it. In Spent, Mikitarian has taken the well-established genre of dark comedy and infused it with her very own peculiar, quirky vision.
When a filmmaker takes a strong point of view like this it’s always going to divide opinions. As I was watching Spent I sometimes found it hard to know if what I was experiencing was a work of genius or a complete flop. You’ll have to make up your own mind.
The central premise of the movie is that a mother and son conspire to do away with their husband/father in order to access the savings that he’s squirreled away through years of miserliness.
The performance of the patriarch, Herbert, played by Nick Nerangis holds the cast together with his effervescent optimism. Darren Barzegar captures Lonnie’s naivety effectively and Connie Lamothe is convincing in the role of the unhappy wife, Evelyn.
While recognizing the passion and talent that has gone into the making of Spent it could have been a much more engaging movie with a tighter script. The story started slowly and continued in much the same way. Plot points were mistimed and failed to move me. However, I hope this isn’t the last script that Mikitarian pens.
The occasional picture perfect composition – Evelyn and Lonnie entering the hospital along converging paths, the peaceful vista on the landing at the lake – indicates an instinct for strong images that will carry Mikitarian far. We can only hope that her instincts for emotionally engaging stories will catch up with the rest of the finely honed tools in her filmmaking kit.