Page 6-Friday, October 19, 1979-The Michigan Daily
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'THE RICH KIDS':
A modest morsel ofperfection
By DENNIS HARVEY
Rich Kids is a movie to be ranked
alongside Breaking Away as the year's
most winning sleeper - not as sunny or
exhilarating (or commercial) a look at
adolescence as Peter Yates', but more
wryly amusing in its sharp obser-
There's an offbeat, skittish in-
telligence at work in every scene; a
quirky feel for hitting the right
emotional note that keeps the film from
sliding .into trendy cynicism or
developing a fatal case of the cutes.
Director Robert M. Young and
screenwriter Judith Ross hold their
reins tight, but their deliberate
modesty pays off. Audiences may con-
tinue to flock toward such dubious
pleasures as being scared out of their
minds by recent screen schlockfests,
but Rich Kids is an "audience picture"
in the right sense.
AFTER ABOUT an hour's running
time everyone in the theatre - their
mild expectations surpassed - seems
to develop simultaneously a silly grin of
pure satisfaction. Without indulging in
manipulation or cheeky cheap shots,
this movie leaves you feeling good.
In this film, the rich art different, but
fortunately they are spared the usual
Hollywood glaze. The "kids" of the
title, 12-year-olds Franny (Trini
Alvarado) and Jamie (Jeremy Levy),I
are products of the upper-rent N.Y.C.
intelligentsia. In four or five years, they
will be perfect replicas of the Margaux
Hemingway character in Manhattan.
They do not talk about what happened
on Laverne and Shirley last night; they
do not hang Kiss posters on their
bedroom walls; their parents do not of-
fer coy explanations about the stork;
they do not get their answers from
smuggled issues'of Playboy; they do
not play fetch with Rover in the back
INSTEAD, FRANNY and Jamie
discuss such topics as the complexities
of TV commercial-making. They have
tweed-clad, career minded model
parents who obviously learned more
about child rearing from group encoun-
ter sessions than from Dr. Spock. They
get their information about the Big Sub-
ject from a discreetly hidden copy of
The Joy of Sex, and when they take the
pet for a walk, it is strictly to allow the
mutt to relieve itself somewhere other
than on the living-room carpet.
They may be just on the edge of
adolescence, but in many ways Franny
and Jamie are already advanced
beyond their years. As one rather
exasperated father laments, "I didn't
say 'shit' until I was 18, and nobody
thought I was retarded."
This particular view of growing up at
first seems like a glossy urban edition
of Eight is Enough, with only one-fourth
of the juvenile population but twice the
amount of plastic perfection. But scar-
cely a minute passes before the slick
image begins to sour. Franny gets up
early each morning to record coolly in
her diary the 6:00 a.m. arrival of her
father, Paul (John Lithgow). He sneaks
into the house every day in an attempt
to hide from her the fact that his
marriage to Madeline (Kathryn
Walker) has dissolved into an unfrien-
dly separation. Franny is hardly fooled
by the act, but she puts up a good front.
SHE CONFIDES all her frustrations
over the situation to Jamie, a new
student at her school. Jamie's father
Ralph (Terry Kiser) has long since
weathered a difficult divorce. Ralph
now juggles two roles, as both a part-
time, shared-custody father and a
comically hyperactive bachelor whose
tastes run toward beautiful blondes of
The two kids team up to prepare
Franny for the blow of her parents'
almost inevitable divorce. When the
grim announcement comes, Franny
and Jamie summon up all their juvenile
nerve and sneal off for a relatively
harmless weekend (one bottle of cham-
pagne, one kiss, and no further action
on the shared waterbed) at Ralph's
temporarily abandoned apartment.
Of course, all the adults - parents,
step-parents, lovers - soon catch wind
of the sordid scheme, and they con-
verge on the "rich kids" in one of the
most satisfying climactic scenes in
THERE IS very little else of impor-
tance in the basic plotline, but it's dif-
ficult to think of any film with more
small pleasures and neat insights
packed into such a trim framework.
The filmmakers work minor wonders
with sequences that have traditionally
been taken to the maudlin limits in an
effort to wring our tearducts dry.
One expects the worst from the
news-to-the-child scene, but the direc-
tor hurries through it with an oddly
touching sense of tension. The parents,
having taken Franny out to the
restaurant of her choice (she hates
Chinese food, and expects the evening
to ruin her appetite anyway, so she in-
sists that they eat Chinese), begin to go
through a painfully artless "You know,
honey, your mother and I have been
having problems lately ..."speech.
Franny stares sullenly at her plate,
grumbles "You're gonna get a divorce,
right?" and promptly excuses herself
- 'I'm going to go throw up now.
All expected emotional moments are
underplayed beautifully. Director
Young instead chooses to go for his
flashier effects in unexpected places.
'When Franny and Jamie tussle on the
water-bed, their movements fall in
some uneasy pre-teen limbo between
wrestling and making-out. Young
avoids the rather unpleasant irm-
plications of the action by cross-cutting
to an entertainingly bad late-night
horror film on Jamie's TV. The later
moment of dreaded romance between
the kids ends not with the usual sappy
"We're too young.. ." sentiments but
See RICH, page 7
Cooney survives tragic crash'-
benefit concerts scheduled
By ERIC ZORN
On August 4, a man drove his car into
Michael Cooney's "house." The man
was killed, and Cooney, a perennial
favorite at the Ark coffeehouse in Ann
Arbor, suffered extensive injuries from
which he is still recovering.
Cooney, a road musician without a
home, lived in his van, and was driving
in eastern Connecticut when another
car strayed over the middle stripe and
collided with him head-on. The thirty-
six year old singer shattered his nose
and broke his elbow while suffering
severe lacerations on his face and leg.
His van was destroyed.
He will return to singing with an
engagement in Marblehead, Mass., a
week from Saturday, but three months
of inactivity along with steep medical
bills have been "an incredibly hard
shot" to him financially, according to
MUSICIAN-FRIENDS of Cooney
across the country have been pitching
in with benefit concerts, and financial
appeals. This Sunday night at 9 p.m.,
the Gemini Brothers will play a special
concert for Cooney at the Ark.
Times have never been easy for
Cooney-he supports seven children
from previous marriages-ard he per-
forms almost 200 concerts a year to
keep solvent. In earlier times he
remembers starving when out of work.
"I dropped out of high school and just
bummed around for a few years and
made occasional money," he remem-
bered in an interview last spring.
"When you're young, you can take not
eating really easily. For great long
periods of time, you're very resiliant."
HE SAYS HE "just wasn't cut out"
for honest work, and preferred singing
in a Boulder, Col. coffeehouse for a
dollar a day back in 1962 and sleeping
on a couch to regular employment.
In early 1963, at the age of 20, he
married and lived in San ,Diego. "That
particular thing lasted about three
years," he says. "When the Beatles hit
America, the folk music bubble burst. I
headed for the east coast.
"Something I knew from the begin-
ning, though, was that folk music would
come and go, but I was going to keep
LATER ON, he married a woman
with four children, and they had two
more of their own. "Now I'm single, but
paying $15 thousand a year for the
kids," he sighs.
His income comes almost completely
from concerts, as he has "personal dif-
ficulty making records. It makes me
uncomfortable §inging to tape recor-
ders." Sales of his three discs are
"good" according to his manager, and
other touring artists have agreed to
take Cooney's albums with them on the
John Huston Retrospective
This is Huston's great neo-realistic movie. Shot entirely on location in the
hop fields, bars, back roads and fight rings in and around Fresno during a
broiling October, more than any of his contemporary work, shows that the
socially-aware Huston of the 40's is alive and well. Stacy Keach plays a once
great fighte'r down on his luck and his story is countered with Jeff Bridges'
young brash fighter who's on his way up. With SUSAN TYRELL & CANDY
CLARK. In color.
Sat: Fellini's AMARCORD
road in an attempt to boost sales.
The albums boast fewer humorous
songs than a Cooney concert since he
feels comedy needs an audience. "The
folk music world is too serious, ac-
tually," he says. "Even when they're
funny, folk musicians are contrivedly
COONEY is an engaging, boyishly
charming performer who consistently
gets highest reviews in Ann Arbor. His
appeal is broad because he consciously
tries to appeal to-general tastes while
dipping into traditional music.
"I try to lead them gently from here
to there. That's part of my task," he
says. "Some of the best music is the
hardest to understand at first. I start
audiences out on things easy to listen
One of Cooney's biggest quarrels has
been with people who have narrow
musical tastes. "A friend of mine went
to see Steve Martin, and Steve Good-
man was warming up for him. Con-
sistently, Goodman gets booed off the
stage when doing this. Someone in the
audience held up a sign that said
"You're boing." Now Steve Goodman is
He shakes his head. "He's a mirror.
People who are bored-the type who
see nothing in something dif-
ferent-are empty. They see no value
in something new because they have
narrow values. You get out what you
ADDITIONAL benefit concerts at the
Ark will be held November 16, 17 with
Barry O'Neill performing.
7:00 & 9:05
OLD ARCH. AUD.
GARGOYLE FILMS PRESENTS
the classic science fantasy