From an advance screener copy provided by the filmmakers.
Middle school provided some of the worst moments of my childhood. Kids were reaching peak immaturity before high school came along when we all had to make important decisions about launching our adult lives. Cents, written and directed by Christopher Boone, captures the atmosphere where kids only think they have things figured out. While Cents is free of profanity and explicit stuff, there’s plenty of bad behavior.
Math whiz Sammy Baca (Julia Flores) concocts a major tweak to her school’s penny drive program. She convinces the students operating the drive to tell one other person a day to give a penny, that other person gets another to give a penny, and so on. Sam didn’t think up a pyramid scheme out of the goodness of her heart; her taking a cut of the proceeds beats selling gum on school grounds. Penny by penny, Sammy’s saves up for a brand new toy. Sammy’s intelligent, but only at the end of the movie she shows empathy, contrition, and even a bit of wisdom.
These girls aren’t criminal masterminds, so complications arise in executing the plan and egos are bruised. Because I had trouble keeping up with names, I made names for the other members of the group: ex-BFF, Mean Queen Selena Gomez lookalike, and MQSG’s lackey. The young ladies do fine portraying basic character types, but cartoonish MQSG acts as though she’s on The Suite Life of iCarly or whatever.
Cents flows naturally without getting molasses-slow like other indie movies I’ve seen. However, there’s a surreal scene where a girl walks through her hoarder’s paradise of a home to enter her spotlessly clean room. The way that’s presented looks more appropriate as a gag in some Nickelodeon/Disney Channel comedy.
While Flores portrays the resourceful, but aloof, teenager well, my sympathies are with her single mother. The mom’s needs, getting into med school to build a career and financial stability, have to be met as she has no support or safety net. Middle school-aged Sammy, a future engineer or scientist, can overcome a few setbacks.
Cents is worth a one-time family (teens & up) viewing.
Watch the trailer: