Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: 1989)

By Monica Sullivan

Viewers who see Paul Bartel's "Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills" will either love it or hate it. We hated it, even though it wasn't worth hating. There's a mean-spirited streak to this self-styled "restoration comedy", something which might seem hilarious to Bartel & his aficionados. And for all Bartel's efforts to outrage, stale situations are recycled, old stereotypes are revived & talented actors are wasted. Jacqueline Bisset's performance, for example, seems like an audition for a "Dynasty" revival, since Joan Collins's character has presumably been killed off with a back flip off a balcony. Sample dialogue, Bisset to servant: "You're not supposed to think, you're supposed to wrap brussel sprouts in bacon."

Robert Beltran and real-life A.I.D.S.victim Ray Sharkey make a bet that whoever goes to bed with his employer first, wins. Sharkey's prize is anal intercourse with Beltran and no condoms in sight. Beltran rides off with Mary Woronov: This is happily ever after? A bad writer played by Ed Begley, Jr. arrives with bride Arnetia Walker, who's mistaken for a servant at first because she's black. She has anal intercourse with one of the men, & fools around with a leukemia-ridden teen. Etcetera. There's also a young girl (real-life murder victim Rebecca Schaeffer) who winds up traipsing off with the diet doctor played by Paul Bartel, who looks something like 3 1/2 times her age, a dog named Bojangles, (Don't get too attached to him...) a fat ghost played by Paul Mazursky, a womanizing gynecologist played by Wallace Shawn and a Mexican maid played by Edith Diaz.

Sexual chemistry between any two of these characters chosen at random is ZERO. There is one funny bit in which a porn video is recreated, complete with bad acting & fractured pronunciations. But the humour in the sequence is stifled by the fact that we have to watch it with the dying (and masturbating) kid. Another false note is struck when Bartel shows a journalist running away in horror after listening to the frank language of Bisset and her friends at the breakfast table. Oh, please... Journalists are more likely to react in horror to the size of their paychecks. It would take far more than rude behavior at breakfast to shock them, much less horrify them. Watching "Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills" is like being a four a.m. straggler at a very dull party. Check out 1982's much funnier" Eating Raoul" with Bartel, Woronov & Beltran instead.

Copyright 1989 Monica Sullivan

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