Down and Out in Beverly Hills continues Paul Mazursky’s love-hate relationship with the bourgeoisie and its institutions, especially marriage. It’s a loving caricature of the nouveau riche (Beverly Hills variety) and although it is more of a comedy of manners than a well-developed story, there are enough yocks and bright moments to make it a thoroughly enjoyable outing.
Mazursky and co-writer Leon Capetanos have cleverly taken the basic premise of Jean Renoir’s 1932 classic Boudu Saved from Drowning [from the play by Rene Fauchois] and used it as a looking glass for the foibles of the rich and bored.
Head of the household is the aptly named David Whiteman (Richard Dreyfuss). Bette Midler is the lady of the house with their near anorexic daughter Tracy Nelson and son Evan Richards.
In short it’s a household of unhappy people and the fly (perhaps flea is more accurate) in the ointment is Nick Nolte as the bum Jerry Baskin. A disheveled and dirty street person, Jerry is an artist of sorts, a con artist. For the Whitemans he becomes their idealized bum, the family pet.