Down and Out in Beverly Hills - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Down and Out in Beverly Hills Reviews

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September 12, 2016
Good 80's fun, no deep plot. None needed. Well read Homeless man with street knowledge helps wealthy family find its way while finding his own. Dare I say a "coming of age story for the homeless"!
August 19, 2016
I liked it in 1986 and seeing it on AMC today in 2016 I still like it. Its 30 years old but still one of those older movies that is fun to watch from time to time
½ April 7, 2016
Movies that deal with the disillusion of middle age are generally somber in tone, so "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," an exceptional jabbing of the bourgeoisie, is a welcome black comedy. Unlike its most notable peers, 1998's "Happiness" and 1999's "American Beauty," "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" isn't cursed with a twisted sense of humor nor off-putting poignancy. Instead, we're greeted with farce of the screwball kind, dissatisfaction a component but not a mood killer.
The film is adapted from Jean Renoir's "Boudu Saved By Drowning," material I'm unfamiliar with and therefore cannot use as comparison. But a winning romp "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" is; it's a comedy that wholeheartedly believes in a Life Is Funny atmosphere, the laughs humanistic rather than incidental.
Set in Beverly Hills, it focuses on the Whiteman family, a wild bunch that lives dysfunctionally in a big, brassy mansion. The man of the house, Dave (Richard Dreyfuss), is a hanger manufacturer who perhaps didn't set out to be a rich man, but has unwittingly ended up as one. His wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), is a bored housewife who likes to pass the time meditating, cleansing - really participating in any New Age self-help activity that will give her something to do. Their son (Evan Richards) is a wannabe filmmaker in the midst of an identity crisis; their daughter (Tracy Nelson), barely nineteen and barely having moved out of the house, is unlucky with men and has an eating disorder.
None of this home's patrons are very happy. Feeling lost in his career and his responsibilities, Dave is having an affair with the maid (Elizabeth Peña). Barbara is sexually and intellectually unsatisfied. The kids, always privileged, are having a difficult time seeing themselves away from their background. These people have grown accustomed to the idea that they might as well be living like this for the rest of their respective years - so it serves as a surprise when a bizarre encounter changes their lives for the better.
The bizarre encounter is with Jerry (Nick Nolte), a dirty hobo who stumbles upon the Whiteman home with suicidal intent. Having no friends and no prospects besides his relationship with his dog, the disappearance of the mutt prompts him to emotionally break down, hence the reason why he stuff his pockets with rocks and jumps into the Whiteman's pool. The incident would cause most to immediately rid themselves of such an unstable man - but, following rescue, Dave decides to take Jerry under his wing and make him a temporary part of the family. As breaking out of his usual routine is mostly unheard of, it's not so much an action of spontaneity as it is a desperate attempt to add a little zest to his surroundings.
Predictably, Jerry does a lot of good for the Whitemans. A man of many talents and a man who bears a great deal of everyday wisdom, he provides each and every one of the family's members with the guidance they need to get out of their individual ruts (though things do eventually get out of hand). He and Dave become fast friends. He and Barbara become one-night lovers. He charms their children, especially Max (the son), whose confusion revolving around his sexuality is a frightening thing in the presence of such overbearing parents.
We can hardly imagine what the Whitemans will do if Jerry leaves, but that's half the fun of "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" - it's a classic Fish Out of Water scenario combined with scathing commentary aimed at the upper class, and the results are farcical and pleasurable. Paul Mazursky, the film's director and co-writer, never mocks his characters, proving the age old theory that even money can't buy you happiness, and that privileged problems are still problems all the same. The movie is a great comedy, but it's also a terrific character study; no matter their screen time, these characters prove to be more than just figments of our comedic imaginations. They're dispirited people in search of purpose, and the actors, along with Mazursky, find a delicate balance between bright humor and a melancholic output. And I think comedies with a hint of sadness to them are always a bit more substantial - like a pop song, vulnerability is often the very thing that makes a hit.
On paper, "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" sounds like a bleak drama with touches of humor; but it is, in truth, the other way around, a bang-up comedy kept at ground level. It's more linguistically, situationally funny than haha funny, but that's not what we'd want here - it's easier to laugh at another's misery, but what a strange case it is when you actually care about that person and when their misery might have more than just a little bit in common with your own.
Super Reviewer
October 31, 2015
Paul Marzursky's slick hysterically funny satire about a disconsolate street vagrant, Jerry Baskin, played terrifically by Nick Nolte, who tries to commit suicide by jumping into the pool of a neurotic, nouveau-riche Beverly Hills family, he his rescued by the owner of the mansion, Dave Whiteman, played marvelously by Richard Dreyfuss, who invites him to stay at his home and get himself together, Dave's self-centered wife Barbara, played by wonderfully by Bette Midler is not crazy about that idea, and Jerry starts making serious changes to the entire household and begins to taking over their mixed up lives. Expertly directed by the late Marzursky, with exceptional supporting performances by little Richard, Tacy Nelson, Elizabeth Pena, Evan Richards, and the scene-stealing family dog, Matisse, played Mike, the Dog. A truly memorable 80s hit comic gem. Highly Recommended.
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2015
This is a film that time may have not been very kind to. Don't get me wrong, though, the film features some great performances from Bette Midler, Nick Nolte, and Richard Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss has an everyman quality about him that makes easily likable in films. Yet he can also play these characters that are slowly losing their mind as the film progresses and things start to unravel. If you've seen What About Bob? then you know exactly what I'm talking about, Dreyfuss' performance in that film is comedy gold and it's a movie that also features Bill Murray, so you can imagine how good he is. While this film doesn't see him go as nuts as What About Bob? there's still hints of it here. But, with that said, I liked this movie quite a bit. Like I said, perhaps time hasn't been as kind to it as one might expect, it's still what I would call a good movie. One of the things I liked about the movie, and perhaps it has nothing to do with quality per se, is the fact that the film is pretty progressive as far as characters go. The film is actually pretty diverse when it comes to characters. Perhaps not all of the characters were featured prominently, but the film does have a pretty diverse cast of characters. And, particularly, for a film in the 80s, where it was pretty much all white casts with a token black character forced in there somewhere, it's pretty impressive to see a film with such an open mind about casting. It's not like it improves the film's quality by much, but it's really cool to see from an era that lacked actual diversity. With that said, it's not like I'd call the film consistently funny. There's parts of it that work and parts of it that don't. I think the good stuff still outnumbers the jokes that miss, but it's also elevated by the performances of Richard, Bette, and Nick. The funniest part of the film would, absolutely, have to be Little Richard's, yes, first appearance in the film, where he goes absolutely nuts, yelling at people and insulting them and their dogs. It's not like he was a good actor, but I was wildly entertaining and Little Richard's yelling. To the point that I was hoping that every appearance he made would've been like this one. He'd just appear out of nowhere and start yelling. I suppose it wouldn't have made sense within the context of this story, but I wouldn't have cared. With that said, the story progression is good enough. Dave feels guilty at all the success he has achieved while others suffer on the streets, so he's taken Jerry, a homeless man, under his wing and let him stayed in his house. Plus, he's in a loveless marriage, so Jerry starts to help him loosen up and have a little fun. Usual stuff, but solid enough. Of course, if you couldn't tell, once Jerry starts helping out his wife, son, maid, and daughter with their problems then that's when Dave starts having a problem with Jerry. Again, it's nothing that you've never seen before, but it's all well-done. I think, probably, the best part of this is the fact that there's a certain mystery about Jerry. He gives all these supposed facts about his life, but you know that he's either lying or embellishing. You never do find out what Jerry was before he was homeless or what he did, but it's pretty interesting to think about the type of person he was and how he got to that point. But it's good that there's a little bit of mystery and intrigue to the character and Nolte does a great job with the character. As does Bette Midler. I wouldn't necessarily call her a trophy wife, but she's the type of wife that completely forgot where she came from now that she's found a little bit of wealth. She's got a snobbish attitude towards Jerry at first, but once you start to dig in a little deeper then you get to see her real personality. And, of course, Bette Midler is a talented actress so she also does a great job with her character. Now that I think about it, I really loved the cast in this film. I don't think there's any weak links in the entire group. Maybe Little Richard, but that's due to the fact that he wasn't an experienced actor and even then, his first appearance is the comedic highlight of the film. With that said, I definitely enjoyed this movie. It's good, it's well-written, it's smart and, most of all, it's got a great cast. Yet, at the same time, the film never gets to that next level. It's certainly enjoyable, but I wouldn't call it great, though I lament the fact that this film has, pretty much, been forgotten in the 30 years since its release. This is a solid Netflix watch.
½ May 26, 2015
Paul Mazursky's film has held up well. While it is often silly, there are a great deal of potent observations not only about the characters on the screen, but the audience watching.
February 8, 2015
barely got a laugh out of me
December 22, 2014
This is very dated in it's idealism, but it somehow still manages to deliver a few laughs. It was nowhere near as funny as I was hoping it to be though. Nick Nolte and Richard Dreyfuss provide more talent than the script does.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2014
"Down and Out in Beverly Hills" is a remake of the 1931 Renoir film "Boudu Saved from Drowning." It also mirrors the classic "My Man Godfrey" in many ways. Though it is based on classic material dealing with the rich relating to underprivileged or down and out peoples, Mazurksy subverts these ideals by filtering through the veil of eighties' materialism. While the original content could be categorized as viewing ostentatious attitudes as a form of class struggles emanating from the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat, this adaptation deals more with silly slapstick and aggressive hatred of snazzy outfits. Materialism is a very important concept in characterizing the rich and powerful, but when employed in dealing with big ideals here, it's used more as a way to characterize Dave and Barbara (Dreyfuss and Midler) than to unpack ideas. Besides that, the comedy just isn't succinct. It tries to make broad statements about the upper class and instead flops around making fun of everything and anything. What comes of this is a loud, aggressive kind of comedy that isn't all that funny.
September 9, 2014
A disgusting evil little bit of political correctness that aggrandizes everything wrong with the modern world. The hardworking successful businessman who's fulfilled his dreams is presented as a fool with a sick family. while the mentally ill bum who acts like a dog is made the paradigm of wisdom. Every social norm is mocked, while laziness, adultery and homosexuality are treated with sympathy. If you see this film you'll feel like taking a long shower afterward!
August 4, 2014
Little Richard freaking out scenes were great. The movie was okay at best. A little scattered.
August 4, 2014
(First and only viewing - 11/16/2012)
½ July 24, 2014
The moral of the story still rings true.
½ July 17, 2014
As a comedy of manners it has a dependably keen aim, with its most wicked barbs leavened by Mr. Mazursky's obvious fondness for his characters.
½ July 4, 2014
Down and Out in Beverly Hills is that typical mid-80's movie that hasn't really held up over the years. In its roots, it's a sharp satire on wealth, but it is overrun by clichés and "Hollywood" moments. What I will admit is that it's pretty damn funny.
July 1, 2014
So good that you have to wonder just why this film wasn't "Star Wars" huge. None of these actors will ever be this funny again.
Super Reviewer
½ March 23, 2014
An 80's movie I actually hadn't seen! Bit far fetched, especially the end - only thing that guy would have got in real life was a kicking - but mildly amusing and has the 80's comedy thing going for it.
Glad I had a chance to see it.
½ March 7, 2014
Excellent cast and group of characters; funny and sappy. From a 2014 perspective, some sequences felt disconnected and the viewer is left to fill in many unnecessary gaps; in addition, the characters of the son and daughter could have been developed a bit more to make you care about them. Other than that, it's as much fun as the first time I saw it back in the day.
December 24, 2013
Classic 80s comedy. One of my personal favorites from that decade.
December 23, 2013
Don't know why I love this movie, because I ususally don't like movies about disfunctional families. But this one is hilarious from the moment the credits end to when they begin again. Little extra's like Little Richard in the brief but extremely pwerful role as the irate next door neighbor who can't get respect from the cops, the dog psychologist to comes to analyze the family pooch and the live-in maid who was boffing her boss but is taken away by the world wise tramp who was found eating out of their garbage can -- all of them are icing on the cake that includes, beside Nolte in the title role of the "Down and Outer", Bette Midler who is the extremely high strung lady of the house, and Richard Driefus, in a role that doesn't make me want to strangle him in the first 5 minutes, are all pro's as masters of this almost slapstick masterpiece. Definitely a 10. It is one of the few movies I have seen that does not seem to become dated the more times it appears on the tube.
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