Coin Toss

Coin Toss


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Robert Louis Stephenson once said "An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding." Tom (Joe Mastrino) thinks he has one. He's got a decent job and a glamorous fiancée. He's also set to come into a comfortable inheritance when his ailing mother dies. But it's only when things start to go wrong - when he discovers that his mother has invested her money in a pyramid scheme and he's persuaded to spend his father's lucky silver dollar on a lottery ticket - that he begins to notice what's missing and what might be more worthy of his attention.

Getting off to a bumpy start with awkward dialogue and actors who don't really know how to handle the emotions around illness and bereavement, Coin Toss gradually picks up, weaving between romantic comedy and screwball caper as it pursues its complicated course. It suffers from the usual problems that beset low budget films - flat lighting plus an evident shortage of cut-away footage and rehearsal time - but Mastrino anchors it with an affability that keeps the viewer onside. Even as Tom finds himself a stooge for scheming girlfriend Linda (Shirin Caiola) and cartoonish con man Doug (Brent Foster), he remains believably adrift, and his efforts are supported by stronger work in the film's smaller roles.

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Screwball comedy is notoriously hard to write well, and Coin Toss suffers from an excess of ideas not adequately disciplined. A sub-plot involving the mathematician uncle of Tom's childhood friend, who also has an evil twin, fits awkwardly alongside the main story despite occasionaly affecting work by actor Steve Parks and a poignant moment near the end that calls into question popular associations between comedy and mental illness. There's some well intentioned social comment from a homeless character but it feels too clumsily pasted in, even if it works to counterpoint themes of ambition and greed. Ultimately, things just don't come together as tightly as they need to, so the final showdown lacks oomph.

Within this framework, there's a sweet romance and much musing on the old theme that the important things in life can't be bought. A little more money might have made this a much better film, but it's evidently made with love and, as a first feature for director Satya Kharkar, it shows enough dedication to hint at stronger work to come.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2013
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Fate depends on chance for a man yet to discover what's worth playing for.

Director: Satya Kharkar

Writer: Satya Kharkar, Mary Trimble

Starring: Joe Mastrino, Heather VanderWielen, Shirin Caiola, Brent Foster, Shalaka Kulkarni, Steve Parks, Satya Kharkar

Year: 2012

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


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