Friday, July 27, 2012

Slums of Beverly Hills

Slums of Beverly Hills; comedy, USA, 1998; D: Tamara Jenkins, S: Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Eli Marienthal, David Krumholtz, Carl Reiner, Mena Suvari

Beverly Hills, 70s. Teenage girl Vivian is annoyed by her life: her 65-year old father Murray is divorced from his wife, broke and constantly forces the family to move from one apartment to another; her two brothers, Rickey and Ben, are backward - and her breasts are growing larger than she wants them to. When uncle Mickey pays Murray to babysit niece Rita, the family finally get enough money to move to an comfortable apartment. Vivian loses her virginity with a guy next door while Rita reveals she is pregnant. After an argument with Mickey, the family is again destined to move out.

This moderately fun teenage comedy by writer and director Tamara Jenkins occasionally offers a few good laughs, yet in the end it could have been better made. The most was achieved from the sweet interaction between Vivian and Rita (both Natasha Lyonne and Marisa Tomei are in top notch shape) who have some hints of a close bond, mutual understanding between women, and to some extent Vivian's semi-charming relationship with her resigned father, but the story is filled with annoying characters who just burden it, from the imposing and slimy brothers up to the spineless neighbor guy who sells pot. As a whole, the movie is easily watchable and rather smooth, yet too much scenes end up heavy handed, spasmodic and 'rough' - for instance, in one entirely unnecessary moment, Vivian spots her father groping Rita - his niece! - for a second. Sometimes later, Vivian confronts Rita about that - but for some reason sees no need to interrogate her father, too. Not only is the scene awkward, it does not contribute to the film in any way because it deviates from the previous storyline completely. The weird ending did not help either. Still, this is one of the few films that actually tackle the theme of a young girl's relationship with her giant breasts - at least to about 30 % of the story - as well as her weird attitude, which is summed up in one hilarious moment in the washing machine sequence: while talking with Arenson, she says: "Are you staring at my breasts?" Before the puzzled guy can answer, she actually adds: "Here, take a look at them!" and actually lifts up her sweater to reveal her bra. And he just says: "OK."


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