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Entries in Slums of Beverly Hills (1)

Thursday
Oct042018

"Slums of Beverly Hills" Revisited

Chris Feil is looking back at the films of Tamara Jenkins...

Tamara Jenkins doesn’t get nearly the love she deserves as one of the most rich voices in contemporary American comedy. Though maybe we could blame that on her short filmography that nevertheless remains pristinely unimpeachable. Or maybe it’s because she leaves us wanting for painful lengths of time between films, and makes it worth the wait. Her newest, Private Life, arrives Friday on Netflix after more than a decade since she gave us The Savages. And before that there was another decade gap following her 1998 debut Slums of Beverly Hills.

The film is most notorious for being the breakthrough role for Natasha Lyonne as the film’s hilarious teenage heroine Vivian. She belongs to another of Jenkins’ dysfunctional but affectionate family units, carted around 1970s California with her shifty father Murray and two dumbass brothers. Hers is a summer of firsts - her first bra, her first period, her first lay and first orgasm (separate, of course) - but Jenkins and Lyonne make it not-so-typical compared to less sharp coming-of-age tales. Opposite Alan Arkin as the father and Marisa Tomei as her fuckup aunt, Lyonne is a natural, exhaling comic brilliance by simply existing in Vivian’s restless malaise.

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