Love on the Spectrum (Film Review: “Keep the Change”)

A refreshingly honest story about two autistic people navigating the rocky road of romance in the Big Apple. . . a hilarious yet heartwarming journey.

SnapShot Plot

Keep the Change may just be the most unique Big Apple love story you’ll see this or arguably any year, but you’ll have to suspend all your preconceived notions about what constitutes normal in a romantic comedy. It’s the story of David Cohen, a high functioning autistic man whose penchant for telling off-color jokes to the wrong audience has put him in trouble with the law. He’s ordered to attend a mandatory Jewish support group for young adults, whose members – like him – mostly fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum but somewhat below his level. It’s there that he meets Sarah, the sweetheart of the center whose cheerful personality and enthusiasm for others comes across to David as annoying and dimwitted.

Although David is mostly able to navigate the world around him, his disability emerges at the most inopportune times, when he crumbles into a mass of ticks and strange snorting noises, fully aware of the bizarre impact he’s making on others. And because he’s so highly functioning, his embarrassment in these moments is painfully palpable. David comes from a wealthy family who has shielded him from the normal challenges of the world, and like the character of Arthur, he tools around Manhattan with a private chauffeur, thinking himself a cut above and too cool for the mass of humanity he sees through the windows of the limo. He imagines himself lining up with a vast array of women he meets on social dating sites, yet every attempt at scoring with them has ended in disaster. When the group leader assigns David and Sarah a mutual assignment to explore together the Brooklyn Bridge, he has no idea that this embarrassingly literal and sunny young woman will eventually change his life forever. But first they have to stumble over some pretty rocky terrain. . .

Parting Shot

Rachel Israel wrote and directed Keep the Change (which won the Best U.S. Narrative Award, the Best New Narrative Director Award, and a Nora Ephron Prize Special Mention at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) with one thought in mind: to present a somewhat standard Rom-Com story that just happens to feature two autistic individuals. She cast nonprofessional performers who actually have Autism (Samantha Elisofon and Brandon Polansky) in the main roles, and wrote a script that didn’t glamourize or objectify the world of Autism. Cast in the role of David’s mother is the fabulous Jessica Walter (of Arrested Development fame) who generates a certain needed gravitas to the narrative. And after a while, the quirkiness of both David and Sarah, as well as the diverse members of the support group, feel as “normal”, relevant, and worthy of our interest as the characters in any other romantic comedy. They may not understand the multiple meanings in all our jokes, but as long as the joke’s not on them, we can all laugh together.

Keep the Change is presently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLAwe5KRyjg&t=3s

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