Tuesday, August 9, 2011


(January 1986, U.S.)

As a general rule, I tend to stay away from American remakes of foreign films (the original play was first adapted back in 1932 by French film maker Jean Renoir). Rest assured, though, that when I first saw DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS back in 1986, I had no idea it was such a film. To be honest, I only found out recently, which should give you some idea of how long it's been since I've watched this film. So I'm afraid I'll just have to plead ignorance on this one.

Another thing I'll mention right away is that I think the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" is one of the silliest songs I've ever heard. The fact that this film begins with that song during the opening credits should immediately tell you that you're in for something very silly. The film is about rich and dysfunctional couple David and Barbara Whiteman (played by Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler) who save the life of suicidal bum, Jerry Baskin (played by Nick Nolte). In a way, the entire premise of the story thrives on cliche and predictability. Jerry's presence in the lives of these people will, predictably, not only turn the household more upside down than it already is, but will also bring about his rather twisted sense of wisdom and free-spiritedness that they all desperately require in their lives. You've probably also seen the cliche in films that the filthy rich are spoiled, clueless, pathetic morons. The film does not disappoint on that level either because they ARE! How many people do YOU know (rich or not) who get a psychiatrist for their fucking dog?? And is it just me, or do films only tend to portray rich Americans living in only Beverly Hills, New York City, the Hamptons and perhaps parts of Florida? That's only three out of fifty states. That should give you some idea of our economic status in the rest of the country...on film, anyway.

Richard Dreyfuss has always been one of my favorite actors. Serious, dramatic roles in films like JAWS (1975) and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) are unforgettable. His comedic performances in STAKEOUT (1987), WHAT ABOUT BOB? (1991) and this film are priceless. There's almost nobody else I can picture frantically running around a huge house yelling, "Call 911, call 911!"

One last comment...question really; would somebody who grew up during the 1980s PLEASE tell me what the big craze about Mike the dog was all about? Yes, he had some funny moments in this film, but he hardly achieved any legendary canine status that would make him another Toto, Lassie or even Benji. I don't get it.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Daniel "White Feather": "My Indian name is Na-Na-Ta-Che."
Dave Whiteman: "Na-Na-Ta-Che-Ta?"
Daniel: "Yeah, it means, "He who lost his American Express card and don't give a fuck"."

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