Mark Reviews Movies

Keep the Change


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Rachel Israel

Cast: Brandon Polansky, Samantha Elisofon, Jessica Walter, Tibor Feldman, Christina Brucato, Jonathan Tchaikovsky

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:34

Release Date: 3/16/18 (limited); 3/23/18 (wider)

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | March 22, 2018

At times, the authentic and honest Keep the Change feels like a documentary. That's partly because writer/director Rachel Israel, expanding on her 2013 short of the same name, approaches this material with a handheld, unobtrusive style. It's primarily because she has made a story about the developing romance between two people with autism by casting a range of actors with autism.

The point, beyond the film's story, is that, in their desire for ordinary lives, these characters aren't limited by their mental condition. On a meta level, the casting itself serves to display that point in practice.

The main character is David (Brandon Polansky), who lives with his parents (played by Jessica Walter and Tibor Feldman) and lives off their considerable wealth. He's court-ordered to attend a support group after getting into trouble with the cops (The specifics are vague, but it's suggested that his tendency to make off-color jokes played a big part). David hates the idea and barely participates in the program's various activities, which attempt to help people with autism better fit into society.

His attitude kind of changes when he spends a day with Sarah (Samantha Elisofon) for a homework assignment. He likes her for the person she is—a show tune-singing, cliché-happy, and enthusiastic woman with a big smile and a warm heart. She's everything that the frustrated, aspiring-filmmaker David isn't.

Israel's screenplay, obviously, is working under the same premise, tone, and structure of your typical brand of romantic comedy. That's a major reason that it works as a stealthy form of activism. Here are legitimate characters—who are in ways richer than the sort we often see in such fare—with hopes and flaws, and they simply happen to be on the autism spectrum. The two leads are charming in their own ways, with Polansky in particular giving a keenly portrayed performance as a guy whose sheltered life, insecurities, desire to fit in have transformed him into a bit of a jerk.

The film doesn't treat these characters with kid gloves. It shows and embraces the realities of their condition, instead of treating it as an obstacle. Keep the Change succeeds as a romantic comedy, a character study, and, in a small but significant way, an act of helping people to see autism in a different light.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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