Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)

SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS is a quirky, funny, and surprisingly sexual-
ly frank coming-of-age tale about an, er, economically-challenged
California teen (Natasha Lyonne), her near-nomadic family (they 
move from dump to dump, but choose to stay in Beverly Hills "for 
the schools"), and the wacky (though no less dramatic) events that 
transpire during the summer of 1976.  (Said events range from Lyon-
ne's character's booming bustline to the arrival of Marisa Tomei's 
space-case cousin.)  Writer/director Tamara Jenkins, a first-time 
filmmaker, handles some scenes beautifully, but seems hopelessly 
lost in others.  (When in doubt... have someone start singing along 
to the soundtrack!)  The excellent ensemble cast never quite gels 
either, despite very good turns from Lyonne and Alan Arkin's strug-
gling single dad.  (Too often, the film feels populated by actors 
instead of characters.)  Most intriguing, by far, is the film's 
frank handling of sexual matters; depictions of masturbation, men-
struation, etc. that are neither hollered nor hushed.  Of course, 
given that the United States Government is now publishing pornog-
raphy, such seemingly daring candor probably isn't.  With Kevin 
Corrigan, Eli Marienthal, David Krumholtz, Jessica Walter, and, in 
a quick appearance at the end, Carl Reiner and Rita Moreno.  (Rated 
"R"/91 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1998 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: September 28, 1998

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