FROM THE off, Tamara Jenkins's charming, Seventies-set coming-of-age drama has two things going for it: a sensitivity to America's oft-ignored class structure, and a great performance from Alan Arkin.
Arkin plays Murray Abramowitz, an itinerant car salesman and gruff father to three children, including the fast-developing Viv (Natasha Lyonne). Unpaid bills and abandoned apartments trailing behind them, Murray takes in his niece, Rita (Marisa Tomei), in exchange for the rent on an apartment just inside the Hills' school catchment area. "Furniture is temporary," Murray barks at his kids. "Education is permanent."
The dippy Rita initiates Viv in her own brand of liberated womanhood, but it's the father-daughter relationship that commands your attention. Hand-in-hand with the teasing of Seventies feminism is the darker sight of Murray's emasculation. He's lost his business, he's on the road and he can't provide for his children, a downward spiral out of which Jenkins conjures plenty of black comedy. And where the rest of the film tends to the fey, Arkin's understated performance gives it some crunch.Reuse content