Don't tell me I don't have a soft spot, because I've got one the size of all Goddamn Canada. I go into a flick thinking, Jesus, they're letting someone film their puberty, and I come out saying, that was pretty fucking sweet. "The Slums of Beverly Hills" is a girl flick, okay? But it's not like other girl flicks where everyone falls in love and bawls her fucking eyes out at how happy she is and how expensive her wedding dress is. This one's the kind of girl flick where even a really tough guy, such as myself, comes out saying, "that wasn't so fucking bad."
Natasha Lyonne plays a young lady between her eighth and ninth grade years of school. She's got big tits. Now, unless you're either a freakin' pervert or fourteen years old, don't go getting your rocks off. For Christ's sake, she's just a kid. But, her hooters play a crucial role in the film - not like she uses them in a crime or anything, but the attention they draw heightens Lyonne's natural adolescent insecurities. I remember how it was at that age; I didn't have big jugs, but I was a self-conscious little shit because I was the only kid in my class that was balding and had a hairy back. Anyway, enough about me.
Lyonne's father is a senior citizen schlub played by Alan Arkin. He's bad with money because he doesn't make much of it and he's trying to support three kids. Anyway, the mom is off on the east coast somewhere, presumably screwing Arkin's old business partner who used to shove steaks down his pants. Arkin has delusions of grandeur about his station in life and the family keeps moving from dump to dump just within the boundaries of the Beverly Hills School District.
The family, which also includes older brother David Krumholz, a weenie that sings Broadway musicals to himself while wearing nothing but his underwear, and nondescript younger brother Eli Marienthal, move into a new pisshole next door to a Charlie Manson worshipping oddball (Kevin Corrigan). He has dropped out of high school to sell pot full-time and touch Lyonne's knockers. He falls in love with her between monologues about the value of his Helter Skelter T-shirts and Cadillac.
Into this mess drops Marisa Tomei as the strung out daughter of Arkin's wealthy brother. In exchange for getting her into nursing school and keeping her drug-free, Arkin gets enough money from his brother to move the family into a swinging apartment complex, where they have furniture and all that shit. It looks like these dips are on top of the world, until...
Well, there'd be no story if it didn't all go foul at some point. Tomei flakes on nursing school. Instead, she seeks out the father of the bun in her oven. Lyonne loses her virginity to Corrigan. While stoned, Krumholz earns the role of Skye Masterson, and Arkin's brother cuts off the money. But, fear not weepy readers because over steaks purchased with Arkin's senior discount at Sizzler, the family decides there is more to life than a nice apartment building and a normal family.
As you all know by now, I'm no sucker for the sappy shit Hollywood likes to throw at me. But, when a movie feels like it comes from the heart and not from the word processor of some coffee-house asshole, it earns my respect. "Slums of Beverly Hills" feels genuine, and it's not dressed up with frills or the usual tinsel town crap. It helps that director/writer Tamara Jenkins never gets too sentimental, even though it's her life up there. She tells the truth in all its embarrassing and laughable glory, making every character flawed and still likable. Puberty will always be funny, and first orgasms, budding boobs and chicks with mustaches crack me up.
Where Jenkins fails is in the typical first-timer ways. The voice overs at the beginning and end of the story are pointless. Shut
Slums is good, though, and we should encourage our young people
to make good movies. I give it a Not So Fucking Bad and a