Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

down-and-out-in-beverly-hills

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bum befriends rich family.

Jerry (Nick Nolte) has been living on the streets for years to the point that he has become used to it. One day his dog that is starving runs away from him and befriends a lady on the sidewalk who gives him food and eventually takes him home with her. When Jerry realizes that his pet is gone he panics and goes throughout Beverly Hills on a mad search. When he can’t find him he decides to drown himself in a pool of a posh household. Dave (Richard Dreyfuss) is the owner of the home who saves Jerry before he can kill himself and the two begin an awkward friendship. Jerry is even invited to move in with the rest of Dave’s family, which quickly sends the household out-of-control.

This film is a remake of the 1934 French classic Boudu Saved from Drowning and director Paul Mazursky nicely weaves the theme of the rich befriending the poor into the tapestry of Reagan’s ‘80s capitalism. The pace is breezy and non-confrontational and shows the wealthy as actually being the weaker of the two as they are much less able to adjust to harsh elements while trapped in their sterile surroundings and boring livelihoods simply so they can keep up the challenging pace of staying in tandem to the standards of society’s upper crust.

Midler has some funny moments as the snotty wife who doesn’t at all enjoy Jerry’s presence until he is able to give her a type of orgasm that she never had. Nolte is excellent as the bum in one of his best all-around performances. The scene where he eats dog food straight out of the bowl alongside the family’s pet Matisse (Mike the Dog) is an absolute keeper.

There are also some great supporting performances including ‘50’s rock icon Little Richard who plays Dave’s rich African American neighbor and is just as wealthy as the rest of the people in the neighborhood, but still feels badly discriminated against and doesn’t mind letting anyone he meets know about it. I also enjoyed that Mazursky stays with his ongoing theme of employing his own real-life therapist (Donald F. Muhich) into many of his movies. Muhich had already appeared as a psychiatrist in three of Mazursky’s earlier efforts and here appears again as a mental health counselor, but this time for the family’s dog.

At that times though the film does get a bit too serene and seems to blithely ignore many of the more serious elements of homelessness. Many scenes make it seem almost like they want to be on the streets and even enjoy it. It also would’ve been funnier had Dave been more a rich snob and his personality contrasted more severely with Jerry’s only for him to eventually come down to his level at the end, but overall I still found the whole thing to be amiably entertaining.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 31, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

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