After churning out CAGED HEAT and CRAZY MAMA for Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Jonathan Demme (STOP MAKING SENSE, SOMETHING WILD, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) finally broke through the ranks of B-movie directors with this pungent fable about the elusiveness of the American Dream.
Based on a real-life incident, Melvin Dummar (Paul LeMat) is an amiable milkman and perpetual also-ran who, while driving along a lonesome stretch of Nevada highway early one morning, picks up a grizzled tramp (Jason Robards) headed for Las Vegas. He's nice to the eccentric codger, who claims to
be Howard Hughes, and even gives him two bits at the end of the ride.
Melvin quickly dismisses the incident and goes about his life, remarrying his ex-wife, Lynda (Mary Steenburgen), and chasing success with typically poor results. Even when Lynda wins $10,000 tap dancing to the Rolling Stones's "Satisfaction" on a television game show, the Dummars are unable to
turn the situation to their advantage. Life remains a struggle for the embattled couple until Melvin discovers that the bum he befriended earlier really was Howard Hughes--and that the recently deceased billionaire has made him the beneficiary of $156 million via the so-called Morman will.
Like the earlier, underrated HANDLE WITH CARE, Demme displays an affinity for Preston Sturges-like tales that portray a system which places a premium on material success, but MELVIN AND HOWARD never quite lives up to its satiric or dramatic potential, suffering from a somewhat sidelong approach to
Melvin's odyssey that renders the film more engaging than truly compelling.
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- Released: 1980
- Rating: R
- Review: After churning out CAGED HEAT and CRAZY MAMA for Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Jonathan Demme (STOP MAKING SENSE, SOMETHING WILD, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) finally broke through the ranks of B-movie directors with this pungent fable about the elusiven… (more)