How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Caper  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

How to Beat the High Co$t of Living is a thin, lightweight caper comedy that will provide more laughs to modern audiences because of its dated late-'70s design and references (elephantine answering machines, extensive use of earth tones, hideous clothing, etc.) than because it is actually funny. The screenplay contains very few good jokes, very little dialogue that is even amusing, and even the situational setups are poorly executed. Fortunately, its trio of leads is at least appealing. Susan Saint James is a bit too mannered and cannot do much to make her character less annoying than it is, but she does bring a certain spiritedness to the proceedings. Jessica Lange, looking quite beautiful, does much better, although her timing is occasionally off. Best is Jane Curtin, who may not be breaking any new ground here, but who works it with assurance and professionalism (and does a mean and memorable striptease near the end). Unfortunately, the stars are hampered by the weak material and get no assistance from the by-the-numbers direction. Living is a bit of a mess, but 1970s fanatics may want to take a peak.