Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Beat the High Cost of Living

Released in 1980, How to Beat the High Cost of Living starred Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin, and Jessica Lange as an unlikely trio of friends who turn to crime to pay for the high cost of inflation slowly strangling each of their lives when Jane's (Curtin) husband drains their bank account to run off with his secretary, Louise (Lange) is being sued by her husband (Richard Benjamin) fighting off an IRS audit, and the divorced Jane (Saint James) with a homeless father (Eddie Albert) and three kids is struggling to make ends meet with another baby on the way.

The goofy screenplay by Robert Kaufman involving the three women working to rob a giant glass ball full of money in the local mall during its anniversary sale isn't exactly high concept, but the three leads, and a supporting cast that includes Benjamin, Albert, Dabney Coleman, and Fred Willard, somehow makes (most of) it work as a guilty pleasure heist flick most memorable for Jane Curtain's striptease during the middle of the mall robbery.

For me the film has three things going for it. First, as a fan of heist films I enjoy the storyline of the friends coming together for an unusual scenario including the planning and execution of the heist and the failed early runs as each character struggles to prove they have what it takes to break the law. Second, like many there's a strong nostalgic feel for the movie I watched several times on cable growing up. And last, but certainly not least, is Jessica Lange who has rarely looked better on screen than she does here helping to boost the movie's much-needed sex appeal to cover-up its other blemishes. Is it a great film? It's arguably not even a good one, but it does deliver its share of fun cheesy moments making it a guilty pleasure (at least for some).

Released on Blu-ray for the first time the only extra included is the film's trailer.

[Olive Films, $29.95]

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