Film: Moscow on the Hudson

"I can do anything I want. Is America."
Lucia Lombardo (Maria Conchita Alonso)

Lionel Witherspoon, Bloomingdale's Security Officer (Cleavant Derricks): "What's it like in Russia?"
Vladimir Ivanoff (Robin Williams): "It's not human, but the people there are very beautiful."
Lionel Witherspoon: "Sounds like Alabama."
Vlaidmir Ivanoff: "You mean with slavery?"
Lionel Witherspoon: "At least with slavery the work was steady."
Vladimir Ivanoff: "Sounds like Russia."

Moscow On The Hudson is a 1984 film starring Robin Williams. He plays Vladimir Ivanov, a saxophone player for the Moscow circus. Poor and miserable, he endures the long lines and the police breathing down his neck. His friend, Anatoly, lends him his apartment so Ivanov can be alone with his girlfriend. They will be performing in New York, and Anatoly wishes to defect. Ivanov is approached by the KGB, who wants him to rat out his friend.

During the visit to New York, however, it is Vladimir who ends up seeking asylum. In legal limbo, he can only find low-paying jobs, and has to stay with a family living in the slums. He must learn to cope in this strange land, what it holds in store for him, and whether or not he can achieve the American dream.

"Tropes on the Hudson":

  • American Dream: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."
  • Badass Grandpa: In Russia, Vladimir is a buffer between the KGB and his crazy grandfather, who has a dangerous habit of defiantly shouting anti-Soviet invectives out the window.
  • Bang Bang BANG: Vladimir, shaken up after having being mugged, thinks he hears gunshots. It's Fourth Of July firecrackers.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Burger Fool: Vladimir's first American job is at McDonald's. ("Come back McSoon.")
  • Celebrity Paradox: A Maria Conchita Alonso song plays on the stereo during Lucia's family's celebration after she has become an American citizen.
  • Cold War: "I defect!"note note 
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison
  • Eagleland: A perfect example of the "mixed" flavor.
    Vladimir: It's a strange country.
    Boris: Yes. Strange and wonderful.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Fake Nationality: In addition to Williams' obvious example, Cuban-Venezuelan actress Maria Conchita Alonso plays Vladimir's Italian girlfriend.
  • Fanservice: Did Maria Conchita Alonso have to have a nude scene in the bathtub? Well, she didn't have to.
    • Panty Shot: When her skirt briefly blows up while she and Vladimir are on a boat at her family's celebration after she has become a U.S. citizen.
      • Also, when they are dancing at the restaurant.
  • Faux Fluency: Averted - Robin Williams learned conversational Russian (and also to play the saxophone) to do this role. It's then lampshaded as Vladimir (Williams) and Anatoly (Elya Baskin) practice their English:
    Vladimir: Hello, Mister, may I buy lamb chop?
    Anatoly: Sure thing, Mister.
    Vladimir: Do you read Ernest Hemingway?
    Anatoly: Every fucking day.
    Vladimir: Kiss me, beautiful.
  • Fish out of Water: Vladimir. Witherspoon jokes about it:
    "I can understand how the brother feels. I'm a refugee myself from Alabama."
  • Freedom from Choice: Vladimir, coming from a Communist country where consumer choice is limited, has a nervous breakdown in an American grocery store when he's confronted by an innumerable amount of different kinds of coffee.
  • Funny Foreigner
  • How We Got Here: The movie starts with Vladimir meeting a newly arrived immigrant on a bus and having a chat.
  • An Immigrant's Tale
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Played for laughs in the standoff between the KGB agent and the Bloomie's security guard:
    Agent: I want to keep my comrade from making a big mistake.
    Guard: I told you to back off! You're in my jurisdiction, which runs from Style Boutique to Personal Fragrances. So keep your hands off the man!
  • Mistaken for Spies: "KGB?"...."No.[Gets the picture] G-A-Y."
  • Newscaster Cameo: Connie Chung reports on Vladimir's defection at Bloomingdale's.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Anatoly. Bittersweet, though.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Being pursued by a possible CIA or KGB agent? Bad. Being pursued by a gay guy? No problem. Vladimir even tells the guy, "Good luck."
  • Russia Doubling: The scenes set in Russia were filmed in Munich.
  • Sex Is Good: Vladimir says this word for word to try to get Lucia to come back to his apartment.
  • Switch to English: During an early scene in Russia, two characters decide to practice their English by continuing their conversation in English.
  • Technology Marches On: Good luck finding a transistor radio like the one at Lucia's family's celebration today.
  • Vodka Drunkenski
  • Walking Shirtless Scene
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks

Alternative Title(s):

Moscow On The Hudson