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1979's Kramer Vs. Kramer is the movie most people think of that brought the subject of divorced parents to the screen, but released just a few months prior to that was Rich Kids. Told mostly from the point of view of 12-year-old Franny (Trini Alvarado, star of Times Square the following year), this movie focuses on kids from two broken homes- Jamie (Jeremy Levy), whose parents have been divorced for a while, and Franny who has clearly seen the signs that her parents are splitting up long before they decide to give her the news themselves. She's been waking up early each morning and watching her dad Paul (John Lithgow) come home after being elsewhere all night, then putting on a charade of going through the morning routine again and waking her up as if nothing between him and her mom Madeline (Kathryn Walker) was wrong. While mom usually sleeps alone and is already dating her lawyer who will be aiding in the eventual divorce, they've both agreed to at least fake staying together a while longer for Franny's sake. Since Franny has already caught on to this, she's been talking to Jamie at school about the whole thing, who's seen all of it before with his parents' divorce a while ago. He lives with his mother most of the time but visits his dad (Terry Kiser, who as a father is about as dead as his later character in Weekend at Bernie's) on the weekends.
Franny and Jamie quickly develop a platonic friendship while observing their parents' problems (this is another one of those movies where the kids are obviously smarter than the adults), and Jamie invites her to sleep over on the weekend at his dad's apartment, which is filled with mirrors and toys like an Advent projection TV, stereo equipment, slot machine and an indoor garden. Franny's mom agrees to let her do this only because she first assumes Jamie is another girl, and when she learns otherwise it's pretty much too late for her to change her mind, plus at least she'll be out of her hair for a bit. Jamie's dad is much more permissive about this- while it's assumed he'll also be at the apartment with them, he ends up taking his girlfriend of the moment home and not coming back for a long time. Their unsupervised evening is still innocent enough, mostly spent watching the late-night movie on the big TV and talking more about their parents' problems. Jamie tells her what else she can expect as her parents inevitably make their split-up official to her, which pretty much happens verbatim. His parents took him to the restaurant of his choice to make the announcement, and since he chose McDonald's he can't eat there anymore afterwards and advises Franny to pick someplace she already hates so it won't be as big a loss.
Rich Kids runs rather short and finishes with many loose ends, but Alvarado and Levy easily carry it. (Alvarado went on to do Times Square and several other movies including The Frighteners, but Levy didn't make any further appearances after this.) The parents are rather despicable characters and clearly not as smart as the kids are, but this seems to be mostly played for laughs rather than making us feel sorry for anyone. Franny's mother Madeline is incredibly self-absorbed. As her father Paul, John Lithgow seems to overact a bit- something he does in many of his movies which works well for things like Santa Claus: The Movie or Raising Cain but makes it hard to take him seriously in something like this. Of course the passage of time makes this a fun film to look at now, with views of the New York streets and Jamie's dad's hi-tech playground of a home. (Looking at the original poster art for this movie, which isn't included in the disc packaging, it looks like the parents are actually the ones who were considered the "Rich Kids" of the title.)
Olive Films presents Rich Kids on Blu-Ray via a hi-def transfer from MGM at a 1.85 ratio. Overall it looks very clean and sharp, with plenty of detail but no overenhancement, with rather neutral colors. Although I was a bit alarmed at the compression artifacts during the disc's opening copyright warning, the movie itself looks as it should even in dark scenes.Sound:
The mono track is encoded in 2-channel DTS Master Audio, remaining properly centered. Audio wasn't a big priority for this movie but dialogue comes through clearly and the quality overall is clean enough.
Hearing-impaired subtitles are included, and it appears that most of Olive's forthcoming releases will also have them- good news as I'd heard several complaints about their absence from previous discs.
Rich Kids had a brief VHS release in the 1980s and hasn't been seen much since aside from cable, so this nice-looking Blu-Ray disc should be welcomed by many. As a movie it captures the end of the 1970s well, with the subject of divorced parents being addressed for one of the first but certainly not the last time in movies.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.