Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual situations, nudity, language and drug content
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Corrigan, David Krumholtz, Carl Reiner
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Screenplay: Tamara Jenkins
Review published February 12, 1999
A semiautobiographical account brought to the big screen by writer/director Tamara Jenkins about a family of "nomads" in 1976 who move every three months or so to find cheaper and cheaper housing, but still trying to remain in the Beverly Hills city limits so that the children can get the best public education they can. The film mostly revolves around Vivian, a 13-year-old who is blossoming into womanhood and has the C-cup bra to prove it. Her father does what he can to make ends meet, but they are always living in substandard housing with freaky neighbors and poor furniture.
One day her father Murray decides to take in his niece Rita, and uses her in order to get money from his rich brother Mickey to pay for her stay. They get the money and move into a much nicer apartment complex, but the weirdness of the family persists and creates some funny situations. Rita's pregnant, the father is lonely, the brother is a pothead, their neighbor is a drug dealer, and there is a cat dead in their oven.
A pleasant slice-of-life black comedy with a perfect and likeable cast and fun performances and situations. It takes place in the 70s, but outside of a few references, it thankfully doesn't beat you over the head with it the way other nostalgia pieces have done recently. Tamara Jenkins has lots of fun with her characters, and while the situations sometimes stretch belief quite a ways, the amiability of the cast is forgiving to the implausibility of the script. It's neither deep nor great, but it is entertaining and in the end somehow quite touching.
©1999 Vince Leo