Part broad sitcom, part strained soap opera, Gil Cates Jr.’s Spent is so committed to its by-the-numbers banality you wonder why it isn’t part of the fall TV lineup. Hip, handsome man-boy Max (Jason London), a fledgling screenwriter and chronic gambler, clashes with his girlfriend (Charlie Spradling) over her burgeoning alcoholism. In no time, they cop to their addictions and walk hand-in-hand into rehab. In an unrelated subplot, Max’s writing partner and Kramer-esque friend conspire to slip their screenplay to Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game. Cates nudges his movie toward its tidy conclusion with the agility of a seasoned network hack.
Shot in warm, bland tones in pristine L.A. neighborhoods, Spent could pass as a commercial for the Santa Monica tourist board: impeccably fit characters share spacious homes, drive expensive cars, and yet have no visible means of support (gambling notwithstanding). Its characterizations are just as unlikely: Brigette drinks like a fish and remains model-thin, while Max’s bookie turns up to dispense fatherly advice on how to stay out of debt. All this would amount to innocuous fluff, but in need of some galvanizing event, the film offers up Max’s closeted gay roommate as a sacrifice. Suffice to say it’s a nasty bit of business that makes an otherwise forgettable film hard to shake.