| Rolf Kents wry theme music that tracks
much of the route of Slums of Beverly Hills amplifies the comedy. Its a clue
to how you should be reacting, and while it could be viewed as a production weakness, it
works well. There is an undercurrent straddling the obvious. Beneath the laughter and
smiles is a painful story of a family trying to stay together. The Abramowitzs are
swimming in the rough waters at the horizon line and whether or not they can stay in sight
of land is up for debate.
The first bra.©Fox
Vivian Abramowitz is a
physically mature teenager about to enter high school. Living like a gypsy with her father
Murray and two brothers, Vivian is facing the onset of womanhood under the most trying
circumstances. Murray cant make enough money to keep the family in an apartment for
more than a few months before they have to sneak out in the night to a new abode. But
hes determined to keep the kids in the Beverly Hills school district somehow. His
successful New York brother has run out of financial patience, but an unexpected visit
from niece Rita saves the day, momentarily anyway.
Though it does not seem that a lot transpires in the course of Slums
of Beverly Hills, there is a definite sense that this family has learned what is most
important in their lives. Its the love and support that they must show themselves.
There is some surprising ugliness that makes its way into the script, but it helps achieve
the off-center tone, giving this film a unique voice.
Tamara Jenkins makes her debut feature film as writer/director
memorable. She is incisive in her cuts and pacing and knows where she is going. Jenkins
also wisely gives her actors breathing room. Natasha Lyonne makes Vivian a complex minx,
combining innocence and uncertainty with an adventurous spirit. Alan Arkin is well cast as
Murray findings plenty of worn threads in the weave of his character and Marisa
Tomeis Rita is a positive infusion of energy.
Slums of Beverly Hills is presented on DVD in a rather
pale palette. Contrast is certainly less than optimal. The disc images are uniformly
sharp, but the lack of color intensity makes the overall picture bland. Outdoor scenes are
fat too washed out owing to the questionable balance of exposure. Check out the some the
apartment scenes near the windows. The outside light nearly blows out visibility on the
interior. Theres a nice openness to the music on the Dolby Digital 2=channel
soundtrack. Dont expect much in the way of spatial effects in this original comic
vision. The package incorrectly identifies the DVD as recorded in Dolby Digital 5:1.