One critic called Jonathan Demme's wistful, strange comedy "an almost flawless act of sympathetic imagination" and compared it to Jean Renoir directing a script by Preston Sturges. Actually, it was the fertile imagination of screenwriter Bo Goldman that concocted the story of Melvin Dummar (Paul LeMat), a Nevada milkman who picks up reclusive billionaire hitchhiker Howard Hughes (Jason Robards Jr.). According to this woolly tale, Dummar later inherits $150 million when Hughes dies. Goldman and Mary Steenburgen, who played Dummar's contest-obsessed wife, won Oscars for this slice of eccentric American life, which put Demme on the map as a director. It was his first big-budget job, and he infused plenty of whimsy and picaresque touches, helped greatly by Robards's and LeMat's off-kilter performances. It presaged by a few years Demme's similarly colorful road movie, Something Wild.