***1/2 (out of four)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
***1/2 (out of four)
Nolte is an outstanding actor, and this role and his harder-edged character in the great "North Dallas Forty," are among his very best. Many actors exhibit far different personalities off-screen than "on" ( e.g. Nicholson), or are downright goofy in real life (Cruise, Jolle, Affleck/Lopez, etc.). But I've never seen any whom I wish might be more like his on-screen persona than Nolte. The guy has charisma, believability, and is completely likable in every role.
Here, he staggers, pretty much literally, homeless, into the mansion of a Beverly Hills wealthy family as dysfunctional (although pleasantly so) as any on the planet.
Of course, his presence and "counsel" take care of all their neuroses - bringing a relaxed enjoyment of life to Dreyfuss, a reawakening of sexual delight in Midler, enjoyment (and relief from anorexia/bulimia) to the winsome daughter, direction to the frustrated adolescent son, happiness to the sexy Latino maid, and effecting a change in the family pooch to where he can now enjoy the pleasant life of a contented, happy pet.
The diversions and hi-jinks in the story are also pleasant - often these necessary components of a film can detract - and the equally necessary closing events lead to a pleasant rapprochement and a happy ending.
An excellent, "feel good" viewing experience.
The patriarch of the family is Dave Whiteman who embodies some of Richard Dreyfuss's better work. He is very successful, yet he it just too uptight. Something seems lacking for him. It isn't the appearance of the bum that sets him off. He actually is the one who most wants him to stay if perhaps to live vicariously through him in some ways. Bette Middler is on hand as Dave's sexually unfulfilled wife who mostly spends her time with worthless self-help gurus. She even has one hired for their cutesy little dog. Nolte is apparently the only man around who has what it takes to recharge her batteries in bed! The family has an attractive yet obviously anorexic daughter and an androgynous son. A sexpot Hispanic maid is also on hand for Dave to use at his will... that is until Nolte moves in on her as well. The film takes place over about a month's time and there really isn't much plot to speak of other than seeing how these characters are altered by Nolte's character.
The film has several funny moments, and thankfully Ms. Middler is not allowed to sing too much. The theme song by the Talking Heads is always welcome to the human ear. Some of the comedy, mostly involving the cutesy dog reactions and Little Richard's exasperated yelling are more annoying than anything else. There are some great performances and many funny observations about successful Angelinos at that time. Not much of a message to be learned from any of it, however. Maybe that is why it works. 8 of 10 stars.
I'll skip the story except to say that it's about a homeless man (Nick Nolte) who is taken in by a wealthy dysfunctional family, and he straightens everyone out by giving them what they want -- as he puts it. Some gags are funnier than others, helped along by Mazursky's direction. When the spoiled, bored wife has an orgasm with the bum, she screams so loudly that the neighbors a block away turn to listen. A flock of pigeons is frightened out of its tree. I can't think of another movie that features a psychiatric veterinarian.
The climax, unfortunately, is more silly than funny, as if nobody could think of an ending that would stop what's already gone by. Mazursky had the same problem with "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," at the end of which the sting of genuine phoniness gives way completely to fantasy and everyone does a ring dance to "What The World Needs Now Is Love..." In "Down and Out in Beverley Hills," a party ends with the accidental setting off of a fireworks display and everyone jumping into the pool. You almost wince at the desperation behind this scene.
And then, in a denouement, when the bum decides to leave with the family dog, the whole family and their servants follow him into the mews behind the mansion and beg him with their eyes to come back, which he does quickly enough. Sure, it's a happy ending, but just exactly what is going to happen when Nolte returns after he's been exposed as a lying, manipulative, lazy scuzzbag who has given the son permission to be a transvestite and has been doing both his host's wife and daughter? All he had with him when he first entered the family was a pocket full of rocks. This time he's got a lot of baggage.
Still, it's a light-hearted and engaging comedy, and none of the acting hurts a bit. Aside from the doggy's psychiatrist, I thought Little Richard was the most memorable character, especially when he complains about how much longer it takes the police to respond to HIS emergency alarm than his white neighbors'. (The dog chases him away, tearing at his golden robe.) Dreyfus is quite good too, reminding me of his performance as the exasperated and finally mad psychiatrist in "What About Bob?" Mazursky wisely avoided any attempt to insinuate overt signs of "seriousness" into the screenplay. A comedy doesn't need dark undertones to be successful, and this is successful.
This is an entertaining film with dark undertones and good performances, particularly from Nolte, Dreyfuss, Midler, Pena and Mike (Matisse the dog). Little Richard is a riot as a neighbor. Nolte is in great shape here, as is Midler, who looks fantastic. The party scene toward the end of the film where Dreyfuss chases Nolte throughout the house and grounds is quite funny. The ending isn't the best, but it's a fun watch anyway.
Down and Out in Beverley Hills is a comedy, which, bizarrely, gets funnier every year.
Whereas it's release saw it as a fairly standard screwball farce, time sees it more and more as a parody of vain 80s obsessions. Among the targets are the growing trends for therapists, jogging, alternative religions, designer drugs and fashion diets.
Richard Dreyfuss is perfect as Dave Whiteman, the nonplussed businessman in the centre of the chaos going on around him. Whereas in some movies the "cute dog" would be irritating, even this element is satisfying thanks to the open hatred he and Dreyfuss displays towards one another. I particularly like the scene where, unable to wreck Whiteman's sexual encounter with his mistress, the dog vindictively sets off the burglar alarm. Another nice touch is an early spoof reference to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", which of course starred Dreyfuss in the lead role. Closer inspection of the film reveals that it's also a lot wittier than you remembered.
Bette Midler's meditating, shallow and indulgent Barbara acts a light counterpoint to the social conscience thrown up by Nick Nolte's tramp, Jerry. Jerry's entry into the household, 35 minutes in, initiates a radical change in all the characters, with Jerry seducing all three women in Dreyfuss' life, helping his son to out himself, and taming his dog.
What makes this film a little bit special is the slightly darker, thoughtful edge it portrays. While it admittedly doesn't see through all the issues it throws up, this is a more intelligent than average comedy, with neatly drawn characters and a satisfying resolution.
The humour is still by-and-large amusing after all these years (a highlight being when Dreyfuss hangs out on the beach with Nolte's fellow bums), even if the periphery characters are slight and shallow. The appearance of Little Richard early-on signals he's got to find a piano before the film is through. Unfortunately, his character - a black record producer unhappy at the implicit racism of the suburbs - has nothing else to do in the mean time.
While it hasn't stood the test of time, hamstrung by its good intentions and badly compromised ending, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS is an amusing diversion. The most surprising outcome you draw from watching again a family that does not communicate is just how well the issues were addressed in AMERICAN BEAUTY, an altogether darker comedy, but more funny, sincere and resonant.
Another fun quality of Mazursky's films is that he puts his friends and family into his movies. Don Muhich, the dog psychiatrist, was Paul's psychotherapist in the '70s and has that role in two other Mazursky movies (B&C&T&A and Blume in Love)
Nolte (Jerry Baskin) looked as if with every step he took, that he was about to fall off the end of the earth. He looked like a street guy with atrophy in his muscles, from sleeping on sidewalks. He played down and out and 'bum' to the very edge. It was the best bum in any story that I have seen or could remember. I was interested in following this character through more than one or two scenes. For instance, in the park, staggering through after the absence was felt in regard to his 'Little tan dog' he bellowed out questions to passers by then, found himself at the mall. While inside, he abruptly inquired to the patrons interrupting their conversations and meals with no awareness or understanding as to what's going on with anyone, but himself.
Then afterward when he's escorted out by two mall security guardsmen, his reactions, words and inflections were just 'picture' perfect. I have worked in places where there were many a transient at times and 'Nolte' being that character, with his attitude and abilities, just became, 'King'. In addition the two lead characters have something in common...dog problems! 'Matise'(Mike the dog) steals part of the show and chews on it a little. It was a riot when he got 'insensed' at 'Little Richard' and became a little anxious!! This little fellow, is a double-threat...'cute' and 'funny' too. He is a great supporting k-9 cast member. Mike does a great job as the family pet who ends up as jerry's little side kick.
Not too far down the line, the introduction to 'the family' through Dave was a classic cinema moment in modern times. He 'up-ends' the whole apple cart, here. The even funnier parts are how things eventually turn and shift for Ole' Dave. I enjoyed the politically incorrect wit and sharp comedic retorts. The characters are developed to a 'T' and they interact and play out in absolute excellence. I would only recommend this to people that will understand and enjoy a hard driving politically incorrect film, with the enjoyable cynicism that this has. But even for those not well versed in movie intellect, this one is hard to miss, it really drives it home! It's infectious and in a way very timeless in some of the overtones.
I rate it a Ten. (****)
You know how people say a film is "love it or hate it?" I think Down and Out in Beverly Hills is "love it or accept it." I think of these kinds of films sort of as "elegant comedies" where the sets and actors are very classy, but it's questionable you'd want to see a movie with those kind of characters. Other movies I believe fit into my sub-genre are Arthur and Fierce Creatures. They aren't bad films, but I don't believe the characters are interesting enough to carry the weight of a full length film on their backs.
The plot: A rich family's life is changed when a bum tries to commit suicide in their backyard pool. The family is made wealthy because the husband, Dave Whiteman (Dreyfuss), is the head of a coat-hanger factory. His wife Barbara (Midler) is happy with the wealth, but unsatisfied as a person. Her and Dave's relationship is complex and she is more often than not left unfulfilled by her husband.
The bum is played fantastically by Nick Nolte. His name is Jerry, and after his "faithful" dog companion runs away to find a home with a jogger, Jerry jumps in the Whitemans' pool when it is draining to try and kill himself. Seconds away from being gone, Dave jumps in to save the man and to revitalize him as a human being to make him happier in life.
An act of role reversal is made here where the happier half is the bum and the sadder half is the wealthy family, so the film gives a sincere look at how some people live their lives and how some are happier than others. The problem is just in the way it's executed which is hard to explain. It's hokey and not as inspired as it would seem.
Paul Mazurksy has a talent for squeezing the most out of his actors and giving them constant, incorruptible, shockingly well-built chemistry. Later in his career, he provided the same chemistry to Woody Allen and Bette Midler in Scene from a Mall, a movie that besides the chemistry, has little to offer. The setup between the three leads is anything but contrived and highly welcomed as they each give their own sense of screen magic.
So, what is wrong with Down and Out in Beverly Hills? It's honestly hard to say. I sat through the whole thing, no interruptions, and upon finishing it I reached a quandary. I didn't know if I liked what I just watched. Sitting down, writing this hasn't helped much either. I think it's one of those films that is cute, warm, and gentle, but that's it. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what you're looking for, but there isn't much urgency or attraction equipped in the script. Just a bunch of characters wandering around, awaiting the next predicament to fall into.
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Midler, and Nick Nolte. Directed by: Paul Mazursky.
The stamp of the 1980s may be part of the problem. A very '80s look and vibe surround this social satire, where a bum named Jerry (Nick Nolte) is rescued by hanger tycoon Dave Whiteman (Richard Dreyfuss) and put up in his fancy Beverly Hills estate. Jerry finds ways to ingratiate himself with everyone in the household, even the normally hostile Whiteman dog Matisse. Dave soon finds reason to curse his generosity.
I'm in agreement with ratnazafu's earlier comment that this film's connection to its time is part of its charm, though its pastels-and-neon visual signature is not for everyone. The script by director Paul Mazursky and Leon Capetanos is fun and arrestingly non-formulaic, but rather underbaked in such matters as who Jerry really is and what the issues are with the Whitemans' distrait offspring. Most critically, there's a tonal problem at the center - Nolte's direly realistic acting manner clashes with the film's overall cheerful and lightweight spirit.
"There's something very threatening about you," Jerry is told early on by Dave's wife, Barbara (Bette Midler).
Nolte famously prepared for the role by living for days as a vagrant (insert obvious Nolte joke here), and I think the experience made it hard for him to settle into a comedy about being homeless. His gruff, bleary manner is established early and never quite goes away, even as the script paints him in the role of a smooth-talking rascal.
In one scene, we see Dave and some new homeless friends parody the famous "We Are The World" song in a drunkenly over-the-top, amusing manner. Nolte is in the center of the frame, but tries to get out of the shot by hiding his face behind a pole. I don't think he saw himself acting in a comedy, and for the most part, he isn't.
Dreyfuss and Midler, on the other hand, have a lot of palpable fun, and their careers deservedly got huge boosts from their performances here. At times Dreyfuss seems to be channeling Jackie Gleason, but it works, especially as he develops Dave as a genuinely likable character frustrated by his new friend Jerry's refusal to join the rat race. Midler does well with a tougher part, a shopaholic narcissist. "That was the cherry on the cake of my day" she groans when Dave tells her he saw their son in a tutu.
Jerry finally achieves his breakthrough with Barbara through sex, a device the film not only plays up with a silly orgasm scene but repeats with the Whitemans' maid and daughter. The latter ravishment proves a breaking point for Dave, who loses it in a big finale which throws up as much fireworks as it can in a way that points up the story's overall lack of nourishment.
Mazursky movies have a unique quality, full of ideas and visual invention, diverting enough so that you don't particularly mind even when they don't go anywhere special. There's nothing dislikable about "Down And Out", unless maybe you are Nick Nolte, but nothing memorable, either.
to me the beauty in that move is: exactly all those gaps in between of the characters in that movie give it a wondrous atmosphere. i love the way the rugged gets lost inside the family without having any attachments towards the offers he gets from everybody. he remains completely non attracted.
a similar feeling i got from "barfly" - Mickey Rouke being an alcoholic "bar-boxer" (-: cu? * David
In Germany "Down and out in Beverly Hills" is known by the title: Zoff in Beverly Hills)
This is a really cool movie. The first time I saw it, a few years ago, I enjoyed it so much .. I've seen it over and over.. and I can still apreciatte it ..
Nick Nolte does a really nice job playing a man without a home, but who has certain happyness and good street friends. The scene on the beach shows that really well. And Richard D's character also gets that.. In the other side a rich, but not so happy family. Nick Nolte brings hapyness to the family .. proving that money isn't always happyness..
It's a really good movie, hope it gets out on DVD R2 at my country ASAP..
Every time I watch this it just gets funnier and funnier. The humor is handled in such a classy manner and plays out so well that you just have to love it. A great film.
'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' Synopsis: A millionaire adopts a homeless bum only to make things go crazy.
'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' is entertaining from start to end. Sure, there are some loose ends in the writing, but for the most part, the film works largely. The Adapted Screenplay is well-done & pretty funny too. Paul Mazursky's Direction is crisp. Cinematography, Editing & Art Design, are fabulously done.
Performance-Wise: Nick Nolte is simply flawless as the homeless bum. He emerges a scene-stealer here! Richard Dreyfuss & Bette Milder are excellent, as well. The on-screen chemistry between Dreyfuss & Midler is, electric!
On the whole, 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' succeeds.
One of the problems is the way the film grips at the start, but into the last half-hour, it begins to ramble and loses your attention. It could have done with some rather un-necessary scenes being excised. In the supporting cast, the acting standard is a bit ropey. Even though the film is only 99 minutes, it only barely going into overlength and getting too nonsensical. Only one more quibble- the title. Surely they could have come up with something a bit more attractive than `Down & Out in Beverly Hills'. But the film isn't completely marred by these flaws.
The acting standard is quite good. Back in the days when we could understand what he was saying, Nick Nolte gives a terrifically eccentric performance as the happy-go-lucky tramp brought into this stylish environment. Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler are quite good in their respective roles as the neurotic husband and the spoilt rich wife. While the rest of the acting isn't anything above adequate, the characters themselves are likeable. With the flamboyantly effeminate teenage son, the anorexic daughter and even a rather pointless cameo from rock & roll superstar Little Richard.
Even if it tends to bumble a bit towards the end, the theme song (Once in A Lifetime) starts and ends the film on a good note, leaving you with nothing but memories of the good things in the movie. There are some flaws in the narrative and in general, but if you don't take the film seriously, then you'll probably like it. I did and I though it was good. So I give it 6.4/10.
* * 1/2 out of * * * * *
The premise is good enough, but the movie lacks... oh, what do you call it... oh yeah, laughs. Despite trying, it's consistently unfunny and downright boring at times. None of the characters is particularly likable, either. Don't bother seeing this one; instead, pile it up with the others in the "could have been good" bin.