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Do you have a movie from your childhood that means the world to you? For me that movie is "Heathers," but for many -- including xoJane's Lesley -- that film is "Slums of Beverly Hills."
When xoJane had the opportunity to present this film with 92nd St. Y Tribeca as part of an ongoing retro film festival we've been cosponsoring along with the terrific feminist film podcast Bonnie & Maude, I jumped at the chance to revisit the film. Full disclosure: I had only seen it once, partially, and on TV -- and also, honestly, I wanted to see how Natasha was doing. (The last I saw her, she looked healthy and happy, but it was a few years ago -- and please keep in mind, I do not know her personally at all.)
Before I left to present the movie along with the wicked smart team of Bonnie & Maude, Lesley emailed me this helpful cheatsheet for introing the film: "OK, so the main theme of this movie is really about Vivian (Natasha Lyonne) and her family being huge misfits -- they're kinda poor and move constantly, but always staying within Beverly Hills because their dad (Alan Arkin, predictably hilarious in this role) wants them to have access to good schools. Much is made of Vivian's giant boobs, and her crush on a neighbor, and that whole awkward teenager phase where your body is changing and you're trying to deal with this weird new shit happening to you.
"Ultimately the family sticks together and supports each other even though they all have their odd quirks and annoying habits and messy emotional baggage, and in spite of their crazy unstable lives they love each other. I think this theme of not faking having our shit together, and being supportive and accepting even in the midst of craziness, is pretty xoJane-ish."
How great is Lesley? She nails it every time.
And that's exactly what I said before the movie. What I wasn't expecting was a discussion afterward that felt like the most intimate conversation imaginable between Tamara Jenkins (the director) and Natasha Lyonne (the star), along with appearances from the cinematographer Tom Richmond and Natasha's costar Kevin Corrigan.
They talked about everything from the famous vibrator dancing scene, the pee scene that studio heads wanted cut, the difficulty of being an opinionated woman in the industry, the multiple projects Natasha has coming down the pipeline and how Natasha's friendships with the stars of this movie helped keep her going during her well-documented struggles with drug abuse several years ago.
What also blew me away was just how much Natasha made me laugh during this panel (she's such a gifted comedic actress and I had to stifle laughter so I wouldn't ruin my filming) and just how happy and radiant she is in her very essence.
Girl is a phoenix.
And thank God for that.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.