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Film / Down and Out in Beverly Hills

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Down and Out in Beverly Hills is a 1986 comedy directed by Paul Mazursky and starring Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bette Midler.

It tells the story of Jerry Baskin (Nolte), a homeless man who befriends the wealthy-but-stressed-out Dave Whiteman (Dreyfuss) and his equally stressed-out family after trying to drown himself in their pool.

This was the first Disney-produced movie (via Touchstone Pictures) to get an R rating. The subsequent TV series in 1987 attained another first; it was the first series to be cancelled by Fox.


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This film contains examples of:

  • Adopted to the House: The Whitemans invite Jerry to stay with them while he gets his head together.
  • Ambiguously Gay: It's not entirely clear if Dave's son Max is gay or, according to Jenny, is just going through an androgynous phase. (He does, however, stare a little too long at Jerry's naked body while he's toweling off.)
  • Berserk Button: Jerry "diddling" Dave's daughter Jenny is the last straw, after "diddling" his wife and his adulterous maid.
  • Comically Missing the Point: At one point, Dave yells, "Call 911! Call 911!", while running with his own phone in his hand.
  • Coming-Out Story: Gay or just androgynous, Max comes out to his dad, kissing him on the cheek.
  • Darker and Edgier: From a meta-standpoint. This was the first R-rated Disney film, under their brand-new label Touchstone Pictures.
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  • Deadpan Snarker: Barbra, played by Bette Midler, of course.
    Dave: I ate garbage last night, Barbra — and I loved it.
    Barbra: Good! You can eat garbage again tonight!
  • Driven to Suicide: In the beginning of the film, Jerry tries to drown himself in the Whitemans' pool after being abandoned by his little dog Kerouac.
  • The '80s: Not as obvious as most films of the era, though Max's andro get-up just screams "80's glam rock", and Barbara is rocking the '80s Hair.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: The Whitemans have a Latina maid named Carmen. Dave has been carrying on an affair with her for several years.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Or embarrassed, judging by Matisse's reaction to Barbra's orgiastic moaning to Jerry's shiatsu.
  • Le Film Artistique: The only way Max can communicate with his parents, it seems.
  • Foreign Remake: Of Jean Renoir's 1932 French comedy Boudou Saved from Drowning.
  • Gainax Ending: It seems like a Happy Ending, but David takes a moment to pause and wonder if it's such a bright idea to let Jerry back into the fold before heading in.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Dave is having an affair with Carmen. Barbra knows but says nothing.
  • Ironic Echo: At the start of the movie, Dave saves Jerry from downing in his swimming pool. At the end of the movie, Dave tries to drown Jerry in his swimming pool.
  • Kavorka Man: Jerry eventually beds every female in Dave's household. It's hinted that if Jerry were inclined, he could easily have Max too.
  • Large Ham: Little Richard being his Little Richard-est.
  • Immodest Orgasm: Barbra has one when giving a deep tissue shiatsu massage from Jerry.
    Orvis: (hearing) Good God almighty!
  • It Came from Beverly Hills: It's in the title.
  • Meaningful Name: Dave's last name is Whiteman. When a homeless Native American calls him "white man", he puzzles "How did you know my name?"
  • New Wave: Max and his friends in androgynous mode look like a young Culture Club.
  • Off the Wagon: Dave noting this with a drunk Barbra.
    Dave: I thought we weren't going to drink anymore.
    Barbara: (drunk) Well, Dave. Yeah, it's true. I am a vegetarian. But I hear... that vodka... comes from a potato!
  • Papa Wolf: Dave tries to drown Jerry after he slept with his daughter.
  • Pet the Dog: Jerry to the neighbor's Arab son. It earns him $500, though he didn't do it thinking he'd be rewarded.
  • Pretty in Mink: In the film posters, Barbara is wearing a full length fox fur coat over her shoulders.
  • Reality Ensues: Played with. Jerry admits he's been playing a part for the Whitemans, asking, "What did you want to hear? Real pain? Real sorrow?"
  • The Remake: The film is an American remake of the French farce Boudu Saved from Drowning.
  • Rule of Pool: Played absolutely straight during the climax, with Little Richard singing "Tutti Fruitti" while on the piano.
  • Shown Their Work: Newly radicalized Carmen espouses her new Communist beliefs to one of the Chinese executives at a party. The latter dismisses her ranting as Marxist-Leninist bullshit, showing the differences between Sino-Russo Communism.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: "Once in a Lifetime" is the film's theme, mirroring Dave's disillusionment with wealth.
    You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
    And you may find yourself in another part of the world
    And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
    You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
    You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"
  • Theme Naming: Jerry's first dog is named after Jack Kerouac. His second dog is named after Henri Matisse.
  • You Need to Get Laid: How Jerry makes Barbra less bitchy and gets anorexic Jenny to eat normally.

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