I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980)
What’s it rated? Rated PG for unbridled misogyny, run-away dumbassery and bewbs.
Did people make it? Written by Robert Kaufman and Leonora Thuna. Directed by Robert Scheerer. Acted by Jane Curtain, Susan Saint James, Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Richard Benjamin, Fred Willard, Cathryn Damon and Garrett Morris.
What’s it like in one sentence? It’s like the plot of the first Trailer Park Boys movie got bad touched by a shitty ’70’s sitcom.
Why did you watch it? Nicholas Hatten has requested it a few times, although I’m not sure what his old Chewer name used to be.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Three women are all having financial difficulties due to the inflation of the early 1980’s. Jane (Susan Saint James) is divorced, not getting enough in child support and also dating a hairy and virile Fred Willard. Elaine (Curtain) was just left by her husband, who took all of their money out of their safe deposit box and left her with nothing for her next house and car payment. Louise (Lange) is married to Albert (Benjamin), who gave her $36,000 over the years to open an antique shop, but since the business hasn’t made a profit in over three years, the IRS wants a piece of the money, thus closing her shop down. The three women band together at first to commiserate, and then in order to rob a giant money ball set up at a local shopping mall for a promotion. But first they’ll have to learn how to lie, cheat and steal, consequences be damned.
Play or remove from my queue? I gotta be honest…I didn’t care for this movie one bit. It starts off really topical with our three women worrying about the economy and where their next buck is coming from. I enjoyed the first half as we got to know them and saw that their situation was pretty dire, but as the film progresses, it becomes more slapstick and the women devolve into jelly-brained caricatures. I’m not going to worry too much about spoilers in this review, since the movie is over 30 years old and because I don’t think you want to watch it.
Susan Saint James’ character probably stays the most realistic, as she’s just a mother looking to provide for her kids, while also setting up a life for her and Fred Fucking Willard. She’s sort of the simple-minded one and you always stay firmly in her corner as the movie goes on.
Jessica Lange is a glorified trophy wife whose love for her husband is completely dependent on how tightly he’s clutching the purse strings. Albert ends up having to sue her for tax purposes so he doesn’t lose his veterinary clinic (on top of her losing her business) and all she can think about is what her friends will think when they see the doors close, instead of the reality of them losing everything. Don’t get me wrong, Albert is a shit also, but Lange is supposed to be one of our heroes (and not an Anti- one), and she comes across so spoiled, idiotic and childish, that I was shocked the filmmakers still expected me to be on her side.
Jane Curtain’s character is also a problem. She meets Dabney Coleman’s police officer character while she’s drunk driving and throws herself at him so she doesn’t get a ticket. When she sees he has a wedding ring, she attacks him, blackmails him and leaves. The next time they run into each other, he’s completely and totally smitten with this woman who has kinda already shown to be a bit of a nut job and she’s into him even though he’s a Cheater McBangsALady. Yet the movie seems to want us to root for their romance, when instead I just found it to be somewhat icky. At the end, while Lange and Saint James are stealing the money and Curtain has to provide a distraction, she does a striptease for all the people of the mall (which devolves into a howling mass of Tex Avery characters). Instead of the dance seeming liberating or empowering, as I think it was supposed to, it looked demeaning, embarrassing and degrading. That’s the biggest problem I have with the film: it’s supposed to be about taking the power back for themselves, but the women are at times air headed, sociopathic, whorish, selfish and cruel (and not in a multi-faceted character sort of way).
The film’s tagline mentions getting back at the oil companies, gas stations and banks, when the only people they actually end up stealing from are local businesses out of Eugene, Oregon. They steal a canoe from some independent canoe guy and the money they steal from the mall was going to be contest money for the mall patrons to win. The only people they end up stealing from are people who are in the same boat they are. And when they find out the money ball cash was insured, they almost sound disappointed.
I didn’t think the film was funny, smart or zany in any of the places the filmmakers wanted me to. And with all the brains and quick thinking the women do throughout the movie to try and steal the money, the only reason they get any at all is because Jane Curtain(‘s stunt body) gets her breasts out. Seriously. Just horrible. Oh, and for a movie that was actually shot in Eugene, the fact that a few characters pronounce Oregon “OH-REE-GONE” is fucking unacceptable.
Do you have a favorite line? When the bank teller sadly tells Jane Curtain the truth of the matter: “You know how banks operate. They only lend money to people who don’t need it.”
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? The studio initially went after Ann Margaret, Shirley MacLaine, Glenda Jackson, Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Diane Keaton, Margot Kidder, Dyan Cannon, Sally Field, Ali MacGraw and Jill Clayburn before they went after the cast they got. All the women refused because they didn’t want to co-star with other women, but they would have accepted had the film been two men and one woman. At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Family Business (saw this years ago, can’t remember shit about it), 9 to 5 (same with this one), Plan B (wow: Maury Chaykin, Paul Sorvino and Burt Young in a movie together. I bet craft services was intense), Seems Like Old Times (Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase movie I’ve never heard of) and Sweet Dreams (Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline!).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? I dunno. If you like How to Beat the High Cost of Living then I think you probably grew up with it and have nostalgic feelings for it, which I can’t really talk you out of.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.0
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 1.5 (for the performances)
Can you link to the movie? If that’s what you really want!
Any last thoughts? Sorry I spelled out the title of the movie with a dollar sign. I’m already feeling pretty bad about that. Also, this movie is filled with pig men, horrible women, Fred Willard in tighty-whities, Richard Benjamin in tighty-whities, stupid idiots, bad writing, flat direction and a pair of boobs…meaning the PG rating is even bullshit.
Did you watch anything else this week? I watched Grave Encounters (pretty great) and studied lines for a play I’m in. I’m playing Trinculo in The Tempest. Acting and shit.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, House? No spoilers, but I did like the movie much more than Michael, but I also grew up with it. I watched that movie over and over again until I got bored with it and then moved on to House 2. I haven’t tried watching either of them in about 20 years, so I have no idea how they stand up.
Next Week? Michael’s back with his review of House 2, then I’m back the week after with a write-up of The Dark Half.