Slums of Beverly Hills

(rated R) starring Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Corrigan, David Krumholtz, and Carl Reiner.
written and directed by Tamara Jenkins

In the first scene of Tamara Jenkins' funny yet uneven SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS, Vivian(Lyonne) goes with her dad Murray(Arkin) to by her first bra. "Overnight, she got stacked just like her mother," proclaims Murray, letting us in on the true-life embarrasment that Vivian goes through. Infact, she is distinguished by the fact she has big breasts. It's all that her predominantly male family has to talk about, and it's what draws a neighbor's(Corrigan) attention. The Abramowitz family lives in crappy apartments with fancy names, and move every three weeks in order to ditch the rent. They are trying to stay in Beverly Hills for the schooling, and realizing just how hard it is. Then, cousin Rita(Tomei, the only missing notch in an otherwise fine cast) must move in, coming out of a detix center. It is she who teaches Vivian of the pleasures of life, which makes for some of the funniest scenes in the film. There is a setup, and not much of a plot, but it's the small details that show you that the tale has gotta be partly autobiographical, and that's what makes it a very watchable film. But, there is a problem. Tamara Jenkins tries to make the story very serious all of a sudden, when the Abramowitz's are confronted with the fact that Murray's brother has supported him his whole life. And once you've been laughing so hard, it's difficult to take the rest of the film seriously. And right then, after a few more jokes, the film ends right where it began. It went right around in a circle. It matters how you take this film. As a coming-of-age comedy that is very funny, or as a coming-of-age drama that is too short and doesn't work. Hopefully, most will pick the first, as probably intended, because the film has more going for it thatn against it. Natasha Lyonne(EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU) proves herself as a very skilled young actress, and Alan Arkin obviously shows his skill. But the big thumbs-up goes to Tamara Jenkins, who directs with style and flair that makes the film so entertaining and funny, that it's impossible not to have a good time. But you can't combine that in a movie that's trying ti show the hardships of growing up. The movie is very short and will leave you wanting more, and that's a good thing for Jenkins, who definitely has talent to burn.***