Inside Monkey Zetterland

1992, R, 93 min. Directed by Jefery Levy. Starring Steven Antin, Patricia Arquette, Sandra Bernhard, Sofia Coppola, Tate Donovan, Rupert Everett, Katherine Helmond, Bo Hopkins, Ricki Lake, Debi Mazar, Martha Plimpton, Frances Bay.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 19, 1993

Check out this cast. A pretty extraordinary collection of players are gathered here -- especially when you consider the film's low-budget shooting style and rambling storyline. Despite the fact that I have come to hate the word “quirky” due to wanton overuse that strips it of its punch, there is no better word to describe Inside Monkey Zetterland. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, the movie presents a tangible reality that is just slightly skewed and a simple enough storyline that is just slightly convoluted. Steven Antin, who wrote the screenplay and co-produced the movie, stars as Monkey Zetterland, a would-be screenwriter and sometimes actor. The script he's been laboring on forever is about the lack of public transportation in Los Angeles. He views it as a plot by the auto industry and sees his script as an earth-shattering exposé. His mom (Helmond) is a soap opera star whose hemorrhoids are acting up and who worries that her soap character is being written out of the plot. Monkey's bored and blasé girlfriend (Mazar) has just left him and the yellow window curtains he loves are suddenly missing. His lesbian sister (Arquette) moves in with Monkey (in a house owned by their mother) because she just left her girlfriend (Coppola), who slept with a guy and got pregnant. His brother (Donovan) is a self-absorbed hairdresser who poofs up Monkey's hair. Monkey's also in analysis where a roomful of psychiatrists (the rates are cheap if he's an academic specimen) listen to his thoughts. As well, there's this forward woman (Bernhard) who gives Monkey photocopies of her bare foot and keeps throwing herself at him. In addition, there's a fan (Lake) of his mother who keeps watch on the street. And then there are the new tenants (Everett and Plimpton), a verbose pedant and a strong-willed bulimic. On top of all this, Monkey's wandering hippie dad (Hopkins) drives up on his motorcycle with his parakeet in tow to return to the family fold for Thanksgiving. Midway through Thanksgiving day, while they're all gathered at Monkey's, they hear a noise on the stairs and Mom Zetterland looks up and says, “Shit, who invited Grandma?” It keeps going on like this with oddities and non sequiturs piling up until it digresses into a half-baked plot about terrorism, the theft of Monkey's script and some street crossfire. Notions of plot only intrude on the mass of wonderful characterizations that best typify this movie. These actors all create riveting snapshots of oddballs in action. Quirks may not make the man, but they certainly make Inside Monkey Zetterland.

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