Released in 1989, though, Down and Out sought to appropriate the story of a French film called Boudu, Saved from Drowning which was something like fifty five years old at the time. Ostensibly, the narratives run parallel, but given the fact that Hollywood and the hanger business serve as the back drop for the update, the whole things comes off differently.
Nic Nolte, who portrays a bum that attempts to drown himself in, some rich guy’s pool turns in a performance just short of unhinged, but endearing enough not to despise the character. And that’s basically, the crux of the entire feature.
Man (and woman) are comprised of conflicting things. So, while Nolte’s character comes off as a sad-sack slacker in iconic fashion, the worldly sensibilities he eventually exhibits makes the film come off as some sort of social commentary.
Contrasted with the Nolte bum character is Richard Dreyfus’ bland business man. He’s been able to make a killing selling hangers to national and even foreign companies giving off a sense of accomplishment that only exists in Los Angeles. But at the same time, it’s clear that Drefus’ character isn’t to satisfied with the life he’s come to inhabit.
His son’s a nascent filmmaker, endlessly pointing the lens of a camera at the man while his daughter refuses to eat too much of anything, has gone off to college only to return as a snooty pretendo intellectual and apparently has poor taste in men.
The Nolte character’s arrival serves as a jolt, positing in actions and not words that dedicating oneself to business and what counts as a traditional life style is a fruitless endeavor. Or at least, that’s how it seems during the first hour and a half of the film s the two main characters pal around, drinking and associating with bums, but still dressed in finery.
An inevitable dispute arises about Nolte’s conduct, which sends the character off with his hobo dog down a back alley, scrounging for food in traditional bum fashion. But when Dreyfus’ family walks back there to watch him leave, Nolte returns to the fold.
Neither bum nor business man is any good. They just are.