Rude Awakening (1989) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In the late 1960s, two hippies are forced to leave their friends as they are wanted by the FBI, who see them as criminals. They hide in the jungle for 20 years, secluded from the outside war. In the late 1980s, they find out that a secret war is about to start in the US, and decided to return to New York to tell someone about it. What they find when they return is that all of their fellow hippies have become rich yuppies, like everyone else, and that no one wants to save the world anymore -- they just want to buy it.

  • In the 1960s, two hippies go off into the jungle to evade the FBI. When they come back to New York in the 1980s, their fellow hippie friends have become rich yuppies.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In 1969 New York City, two hippies, Fred Wook (Eric Roberts) and Jesús Monteya (Cheech Marion), flee the USA to avoid arrest by the FBI and hide out in the jungles of Central America. Fred is an idealist, working on an underground newspaper with his friend Sammy, while Jesús is a stoner whose brain has been fried after being given huge amounts of LSD by researchers (the theory being that acid and appropriate visual stimulation can turn pacifist hippies into committed soldiers; Jesús proves their failure by wishing them 'peace' as he leaves the lab.) The two flee the inner-city commune they are living in, leaving behind Sammy (Robert Carradine) who feels it is important that he keep writing and publishing their message, and Fred's girlfriend, artist Petra (Julie Hagerty).

    20 years later, Fred and Jesús are still living in the jungle of Central America in an commune getting stoned from marijuana, when they find a dying man who has been shot by local soldiers that invade their isolated compound. The dying man reveals that he is a CIA agent and gives them some documents and tells them it is vital they get the papers back to the US government. The documents imply that the US is planning to invade the country, and outraged, Fred and Jesús decide to return to the US to get the action stopped.

    Having been living in isolation (and by implication, stoned the entire time) for the last 20 years, upon arriving back in New York City, they find the 1980s, entrenched in the yuppie ethos, to be something of a shock. Their former coffee house den mother Ronnie Sommers (Louise Lasser) has turned their hangout place into a retro jazz club to remember the 1960s hippy culture.

    Eric and Jesús soon find that both Sammy and Petra have both embraced the materialistic culture. Sammy is wealthy yuppie married to an uptight businesswoman named Julie (Cindy Williams) whom they have a 15-year-old activist son. Petra is a single and wealthy commercial and film producer trying to get by the best she can.

    It takes considerable persuasion from Fred and Jesús (including a memorable speech where Jesús makes numerous profound points, ending each one with 'That's all I got to say', before launching into another ramble) before Sammy and Petra agree to help them expose the covert CIA plan, but not after Jesús and Fred force themselves into Sammy's apartment to ruin a deal between him and his wife to charm another yuppie couple the Stools (Buck Henry and Andrea Martin) to let them settle in a new high-priced co-op.

    At the climax, Fred, Jesús, Sammy, and and Petra take over a building at NYU where they stage a sit-down protest for the upcoming war in Central America, until an FBI agent (Cliff De Young) who had been searching for Jesús and Fred for the last 20 years, tracks them down and arrests all of them. The results of a sit-in at the university to protest the planned invasion leave the group despondent; the student body is indifferent and the documents turn out to be a theoretical exercise and not genuine invasion plans. However, the controversy brought up by their publication implies that Americans would welcome a war 'we can win' and so the invasion actually happens.

    Fred is broken by the idea that he started a war, and gives up all hope. He decides to leave New York once again, with Jesús tagging along, to an unknown destination to plan his next move, while Sammy and Petra decide to stay behind in New York, not willing to abandon their new yuppie lifestyle. Fred sits on a sidewalk crying until some college students track him down to ask for his help in mobilizing action; they are concerned by the numerous ecological and social problems they see around them. Fred now stops crying and agrees to help the students. Fred finally sees that despite the fact that the "establishment" (U.S. government) always wins in the end, as long as there are liberal students out there that speak out, there will always be hope for the world. The final shot shows Jesús having another acid flashback where he talks with the magical talking fish that he encountered earlier at the commune in Central America.

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