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Slums of Beverly Hills

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Slums of Beverly Hills is a 1998 American comedy film written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, and starring Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, David Krumholtz, Kevin Corrigan, Jessica Walter and Carl Reiner. The story follows a teenage girl (Lyonne) struggling to grow up in 1976 in a lower-middle-class nomadic Jewish family that relocates every few months.
The film received mixed to positive critical reviews, and has gradually become a cult classic.


Fourteen-year-old Vivian Abromowitz's family are penniless nomads, moving from one cheap apartment to another in Beverly Hills in 1976, so that Vivian and her brothers can attend the city's prestigious local schools. Their father, Murray, is a divorced 65-year-old who refuses to retire, working as an unsuccessful Oldsmobile salesman whose cars are selling poorly due in large part to the energy crisis of the time.
Vivian's wealthy uncle Mickey regularly sends the family money to help them survive. When Mickey's 29-year-old daughter Rita runs away from a rehab facility, Murray offers her shelter if Mickey will pay for a plush apartment. Vivian must babysit her adult cousin, making sure she gets to nursing school and avoids pills and booze. But Vivian has her own problems: she's curious about sex, likes an apparently twenty-something neighbor, Eliot, has inherited her mother's ample breasts, and wants a family that doesn't embarrass her.
Vivian's older brother Ben aspires to a show business career, while her dad aspires to feminine companionship but would not give in to wealthy lady-friend Doris Zimmerman's desire that he send his kids back East to live with his ex-wife. Vivian's younger brother Rickey simply aspires to get attention.
Vivian and Rita are close and speak sometimes in gibberish, or Pig Latin. Vivian learns that Rita has no desire to attend nursing school and also has no clue as to what to do with her life. Murray attempts to cover up Rita's lack of progress at nursing school, when Mickey asks for progress reports. Eventually, Mickey, frustrated at having to support his brother's family and also learning of their deception concerning his daughter (who is pregnant), explodes during a meeting between the two families, telling Murray he's tired of sending them money. Depressed and dejected, Murray once again packs the kids into his car and they take off. In an attempt to cheer her father up, Vivian suggests that the family stop for a cheap steak at Sizzler for breakfast—a ritual regularly suggested by their father as a means of showing affection to his children, despite their indifference to it or him.


  • Alan Arkin as Murray, Vivian's father
  • Natasha Lyonne as Vivian, a fourteen-year-old girl who is the story's main protagonist
  • Kevin Corrigan as Eliot, Vivian's neighbor and sometime boyfriend
  • Jessica Walter as Doris, Murray's new love interest
  • Rita Moreno as Belle, Mickey's wife and Rita's mother
  • David Krumholtz as Ben, Vivian's 18-year-old brother
  • Eli Marienthal as Rickey, Vivian's 10-year-old brother
  • Carl Reiner as Mickey, Murray's older brother
  • Marisa Tomei as Rita, Vivian's cousin


;Box office
According to Box Office Mojo, Slums of Beverly Hills earned a total of $5,502,773 at the domestic box office. On its opening weekend, it garnered $125,561 from 7 theaters.

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film is certified "Fresh," with an 80% approval rating based on 61 reviews, for an average score of 6.96/10, with the site's consensus describing the film as "Warm, real, and hilarious." Reviewers have praised the 1970s production design, the humor, and the acting as "dead-on."
Roger Ebert awarded the film three stars out of four, and said of lead actress Natasha Lyonne, "she has the film's most important role, and is the key to the comedy. She does a good job of looking incredulous, and there's a lot in her life to be incredulous about. She also has a nice pragmatic approach to sexuality, as in a scene where she consults a plastic surgeon about on-the-spot breast reduction." He also stated, "...basically I enjoyed Slums of Beverly Hills—for the wisecracking, for the family squabbles, for the notion of squatters who stake a claim in a Beverly Hills where money, after all, is not the only currency."
San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Ruthe Stein stated, "While touching on serious issues such as loss, this coming-of-age story is first and foremost a comedy, and a hilarious one at that. It never strains to be funny. The humor derives from the deadpan responses of family members to circumstances beyond their control." She also wrote, "Set in the mid-'70s, Slums gets the period right, from the burnt orange shag carpet on the floor of the family's temporary digs to the dorky clothes and extreme hairstyles. Even the saleslady who sells Vivian her first bra has the overly made-up look of the time. The Abramowitzes' behavior when they go out to eat—complaining about the service and that there's too much salt in the food—may seem to border on a Jewish stereotype. But it's also dead-on."


  • ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film in a Crossover Role (Rita Moreno)
  • American Comedy Awards, USA for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Marisa Tomei)
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards for Most Promising Actress (Natasha Lyonne)
  • Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature: Tamara Jenkins (director); Michael Nozik (producer); Stan Wlodkowski (producer); and Best First Screenplay (Tamara Jenkins)
  • Teen Choice Awards for Film - Breakout Performance (Natasha Lyonne) and Film, Funniest Scene
  • YoungStar Awards for Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Comedy Film (Eli Marienthal)


  • "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)" - Parliament
  • "I'd Love to Change the World" - Ten Years After
  • "Shambala" - Three Dog Night
  • "Up The Escalator" - Rolfe Kent
  • "A Fool in Love" - Ike And Tina Turner
  • "Papa Loves Mambo" - Perry Como
  • "You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks" - Funkadelic
  • "Measuring Up" - Rolfe Kent
  • "Before the Next Teardrop Falls"- Freddie Fender
  • "Luck Be a Lady" - David Krumholtz
  • "Let Your Love Flow" - The Bellamy Brothers
  • "Escalator" - Rolfe Kent
  • "Your Perverted Arms" - Rolfe Kent
  • "Rita" - Rolfe Kent
  • "We're Nomads" - Rolfe Kent

External links

Category:1998 films
Category:American coming-of-age comedy-drama films
Category:1990s coming-of-age comedy-drama films
Category:Films about dysfunctional families
Category:Films set in 1976
Category:Films set in Beverly Hills, California
Category:English-language films
Category:Fox Searchlight Pictures films
Category:Films produced by Michael Nozik
Category:American films
Category:Films about Jews and Judaism
Category:Films directed by Tamara Jenkins
Category:Films with screenplays by Tamara Jenkins
Category:Films scored by Rolfe Kent
Category:1998 directorial debut films

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