SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS, 1998
Starring Alan Arkin, Natasha Lyonne, Charlotte Stewart and Marisa Tomei
A nomadic family living in 1970’s America believe they have finally found a place to call their home.
Those who follow my reviews here on Wild Sound will know my deep appreciation for the BBC and the late-night movies it shows on a constant basis during the week. This movie was yet another discovery and found it be an exhilarating watch especially for the ridiculously young actress fronting the cast.
Vivien (Lyonne) is a typical teenager full of angst and uncertainty about life. She has no mother figure to guide her and be someone to answer her many questions about the changes which she is experiencing. Her father Murray (Arkin) tries his best to provide for his family but they become entangled in his career ambitions as he goes from one job to the next even though at his age of sixty five he really should be retiring. Alongside Vivien and Murray is older brother Ben (David Krumholtz) but they are soon joined by Rita (Tomei) who is the youngest daughter of Murray’s brother who happens to be very rich and gives them money from time to time. The arrival of Rita makes a significant impact on this close-knit family whose ways are different from me to you.
Semi-autobiographical, there are many touches in the movie which indicate this. Vivien struggles to buy a bra and her dialogue is very similar to how someone of her age would speak. I understand that teenage girls speak in a different language to everyone else and the gibberish which Rita and Vivien utter to each other has a deeply personal side to it and provides for a number of humorous scenes which are different from the comedy normally seen in a typical Hollywood movie.
The soundtrack to the film deserves special mention. This movie is set in 1976 and the music chosen indicates this well. Here, you have music by the likes of The Bellamy Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner along with a strangely hypnotic song by Freddie Fender. Having recently purchased the soundtrack at a record shop that sells music on vinyl for an astonishingly low price of 50p, it is when listening to this album that the great memories of watching this movie spring to mind.
The lead actress in the movie takes this opportunity by the horns and impresses from the off. Lyonne was nineteen years old when this movie was released and her own formative years were just a short time before this. She knows that her father is trying his best to provide for his family and avoids criticising him when the proverbial hits the fan. Just as she did with her role in the “American Pie” series, her critical character is only restricted to those who she cares for and does not become negative in her criticism when this happens.
The other surrounding actors and actresses do their part as well. The talent that is Alan Arkin never needs to be in doubt and here his portrayal of the hard-up Murray is remarkable, as is Marisa Tomei. Shocking many after winning an Oscar for her role in “My Cousin Vinny”, it is performances such as this which show why she has more fans than critics. Also portrayed heavily in the movie is Krumholtz and his character Ben. He has more of a negative personality than his sister and parallels are made between the two as Ben criticises his father for his efforts. Either way, it is a great performance by him and showed the early signs of a successful career as seen in the television show “Numb3rs”.
In all, this movie is not to be taken too seriously. The comedic timing by all involved shows a tight nit cast and crew and a script which is rock solid. Having just about made a profit, it could be described as a sleeper hit as the success of it will prove to be astronomical in the months and years and come.
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