A timely comedy about the collapse of the housing market and the tanking of the economy, ”Subprime” is the story of Leo Monroe (Aaron Miller) who has to come back to live with his parents once his financial aid for College dries up. He comes home to find that everyone in his extended family has defaulted on their home mortgage payments and they’re all moving in to Leo’s home. The story relies on the collection of colorful wacky characters that fill out their house. Leo’s good natured parents Art (Jeffery Wright) and Jude (Allison Threadgold) have opened their doors to all their wacky relatives “Just until they get back on their feet again” and in the interim, they find themselves living in an eternal family reunion without the possibility of sending everyone home after dinner. Uncle Dick (Andy Smith) is the Machiavellian uncle who sold everyone in the movie the same adjustable rate mortgage that has them all upside down and under water to begin with, and ironically, he is also upside down on the same bad loan for his own house. Uncle Darryl (William Gillmore), another black sheep of the family, was already living on his boat in an alcoholic haze with his two sons, so in some strange way he was probably the most prepared for the housing meltdown. A foul mouthed Grandpa (Tracy Fritz) and a Grandma with a still hefty libido (Esther Hersh) bring a bevy of cringe-worthy inappropriateness with them. Sexually ambiguous neighbor Jim Lang (Read MacGuirtose) and his very understanding wife Gloria (Casey Robinson) have to move in as well, which poses a new problem for Leo because they’re bringing their daughter Samantha (Kristina Plisko) with them whom Leo had a onetime relationship with and still carries a torch for.
In the midst of a claustrophobic housing crisis of their own, Leo is racing to try to figure out how to make some money so they can save his home. With the help of his teenage cousin Thad (Quinn Wright) who has mad computer skills as well as a budding alcohol problem and Uncle Darryl’s special “White Lightning” grain alcohol recipe, they feel as if they may have stumbled upon a solution. However, their ill thought out plan seems to be on the south side of the law and Uncle Darryl shouldn’t be trusted around open flame and ninety-proof liquid. Hijinks ensue.
”Subprime”’s strengths lies on the fact that we can all relate to being forced into tight quarters with wacky relatives that we can’t believe we’re related to. It also does a valiant job of taking a comic perspective on an ugly foreclosure epidemic that has devastated so many families in the US and around the world. With so much suffering around this subject, writers Brooks & Nancy Campbell and Jeff Wright offer some catharsis and levity. Brooks Campbell showed great skill in directing this story through some delicate subjects and navigated some controversial topics without passing judgment. Also, the score by Steven Benton was fantastic!
The main weakness of the movie was the uneven level of acting throughout. Some of the more convincing performances shined a spotlight on the less refined acting chops of some of the cast. The limited production value and sometimes laughable effects still outshone the movie’s modest budget and actually seemed to fit the nature of the story as well, so in a way itself became a character in the movie. However, the animated bit in the opening credits rival many bigger budget pictures.
In all, ”Subprime” will be a welcomed chuckle for those who have suffered and survived the housing crisis. Cinephiles and movie snobs need not apply.