Though it’s decades old, Rich Kids ought to be the kind of film that would interest families with adolescent children. It stars two engaging young actors (Trini Alvarado, Jeremy Levy) who play upper-crust offspring of Upper West Side parents who are either divorced or in the process of divorcing. It’s a kids’ point-of-view film with very few scenes that don’t feature the young characters. And the focus—an opposite gender friendship that leads to some innocent experimentation—would seem to be timeless.
Unfortunately, the pacing of ‘70s films is a liability for many of today’s young viewers, who will also find this character-driven coming-of-age drama relatively plotless compared to today’s movies. Your not-so-rich kids might reach for their cell phones or hand-held gaming systems to “multitask” during this one.
That’s too bad, because the acting is superb, and older viewers will delight in seeing a very young-looking 34-year-old John Lithgow as the father of 12-year-old Franny, who knows her father sneaks home at 5 a.m. every day to hide that he spends the night elsewhere. Precocious and left on her own a lot, Franny has somehow picked up a copy of The Joy of Sex, which she studies and keeps hidden behind her childhood books. Her mother (Kathryn Walker) has her own preoccupations, and because that includes another man we suspect that Franny’s racy reading isn’t just the result of sexual curiosity, but perhaps self-guided “homework” to try to understand what’s happening to her parents and their family unit.
At school Franny has bonded with Jamie, whose parents are already divorced and caught up in their new lives, leaving him on the periphery or bouncing back and forth between houses. The plot is simple, though it stretches the limits of belief. Franny wants to have a sleepover with Jamie and asks her workaholic mother when she’s half asleep. Later, when Mom learns that Jamie is a boy, she and her husband still allow her daughter to go to Jamie’s house because “she said it was okay.” Meanwhile, Jamie’s dad leaves the kids alone in his bachelor pad while he goes off in his sports car with his latest conquest, despite assuring Franny’s parents that the kids would be supervised. That’s the plot in a nutshell, and the illogical and irresponsible parental behavior that puts the two rich kids in a position to experiment may bother older viewers as much as the plotless narrative might turn off the kids. Still, the performances are worth watching, and if young viewers are warned in advance that Rich Kids is a slower-moving character-driven film they might be able to enjoy them and the read-between-the-lines nuances of the film.
Language: Some mild swearwords
Sex: Two children in a bubble bath, perhaps innocent, perhaps not; two children in pajamas play wrestling with each other and sexual tension
Adult situations: None, apart from talk of affairs and that bachelor pad
Takeaway: Wes Anderson did a better job of exploring similar territory in Moonrise Kingdom (2012), a PG-13 rated adventure-comedy-drama.