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  • This movie is swimming in 1970's economy humor, there's never enough money for everything. Bills can't get paid, and a radio announcer says with relief in his voice that the cost of living went up ONLY 2%.

    The humor may date it for some and make it fly over people's heads that were too young to remember the economic malaise of the late 70's (I barely remember it, my being a kid back then).

    But if you get past that, what you have here is a smart and entertaining caper film where the people pulling the caper are all female. June Curtain, Jessica Lange and Susan Saint James make up the team that conspires to make a heist.

    Dabney Coleman proves he can actually play a sweet guy with his turn as a Police man which falls for Jane Curtain's character. Richard Benjimin has some great one-liners playing Jessica Lange's animal doctor husband. Garrett Morris has a great cameo.

    I saw this at the movies when it first came out and found it to be very funny and enjoyable. Years later I sought it out and found that it has been out of print on video for a number of years. Finally, I found a copy to rent. You should try to find a copy too. It's a fun film
  • This 1980 comedy is slight but entertaining, with a terrific cast headed up by former "Saturday Night Live" star Jane Curtin. Fittingly, Curtin would later become half of the 1980s classic sitcom duo "Kate and Allie", sharing TV laughs with co-star Susan Saint James. Here, the two women share the bill with a pre-"Tootsie" Jessica Lange, who was then underrated as an actress and better known for bombing in Dino De Laurentis' version of "King Kong".

    Curtin plays Elaine, a sophisticated missus whose husband has run out, leaving her with a tasteful hillside home, and a pile of bills she can barely pay off. Meanwhile, divorcée Jane (Saint James) struggles to raise two kids, and can't afford to marry her fiancé, hardware store owner Robert (Fred Willard) – forcing them to spend intimate moments in the back of a car. Louise (Lange) is also battling differences with husband Albert (Richard Benjamin), a dentist who underestimates his wife's desire to have an income of her own – and who leads the IRS to classify his wife's antique store as a "hobby".

    Of course, the ladies decide the easiest problem-solver is to steal a ball full of floating dollars at the local shopping mall.

    It's a slight premise, but the performances are enjoyable, not only from the leads, but also from supporting characters. While our sympathy is with the screwball ladies, it's also fun watching Benjamin squirm as a selfish oaf, in a scene with dental hygienist (and future B-queen) Sybil Danning. Also entertaining are Dabney Coleman as a cop romancing Elaine, and Eddie Albert as Max, a now-daffy ex-Marine and father to Jane. One of the best scenes involves Curtin and former SNL costar Garrett Morris, playing a utility representative.

    The pretty Oregon town of Eugene, home to the University of Oregon, also lends its character to the scenes, with on-location shoots adding to its realism. Not only that – counter-cultural Eugene *is* the sort of town where well-meaning citizens would put on a play at the local shopping mall. It's a fun trip back in time for anyone who even slightly remembers the inflationary 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Three middle-class women, all of whom are struggling financially for various reasons, decide to solve their problems by knocking over a fund-raising event at the local shopping mall. They "psych themselves up" by committing some small stickups and so forth at first, then they put the big plan in place -- and, of course, when the big day arrives, everything goes awry. Moderately entertaining, though not particularly noteworthy apart from some interesting casting notes, such as Dabney Coleman as an unassuming nice guy (something you don't see very often), Jessica Lange in a comedic role (ditto) and Jane Curtin in her first feature film, working alongside Susan Saint James, a partnership that would later be reprised in the successful sitcom "Kate & Allie".

    This is the kind of film that, if you're of a particular age, you probably saw in grade school or junior high on cable TV when you were a kid, and now that it's popping up again on broadcast TV on a Sunday afternoon when you don't really have much else to do, you think to yourself, "Oh, hey, yeah, I remember that movie -- seeing that again might be kind of fun." And it is.

    It's also quite watchable if you've never seen it before. Just don't expect to come away feeling as though your life has been changed, as it usually is with truly great comedies from that era (such as 1981's "Arthur").
  • Believe it or not, this movie actually has some resemblance with Jules Dassin's famous heist classic. OK, it's not Paris, France here. But Eugene, Oregon is a nice place, too. People who are familiar with the town probably will have a few extra laughs. The actual heist in a shopping mall is really well filmed and not entirely implausible. Contrary to the men's rififi the women work their way up from below, but I do not want do disclose more.

    How to Beat the High Co$t of Living is based on quite a good and easily digestible script, although some of the jokes are predictable or fall a little flat. The first part of the movie deals with the individual reasons of the three women of different social backgrounds to plan and execute the heist. This gives some insight in the economic situation in the USA in the late 1970s.

    Jane Curtin is great in the leading role, she has a terrific screen presence and can bare her teeth like no one else. Her job during the heist is to divert the attention of the crowd from the treasure while it is taken away and she really has some wonderful scenes. I also liked Richard Benjamin, Eddie Albert and Dabney Coleman as male support.

    I can recommend this movie as a light yet insightful entertainment.
  • For some reason, a slew of movies in 1980 mark a turning point in my developmental teen years: 9 to 5, A Coal Miner's Daughter, Private Benjamin, HTBTHCOL is yet that took a long time to eventually come out on DVD.

    It's even funnier than I'd remembered. While the story is good and the acting is ok, it's the cultural references circa 1980 that totally make the movie work for me (I'm 36 yrs old in '04). Jane Curtain's '80 Cutlass sucking gas, her oh-so-'70s contemporary house--complete with green bedspread and Buick-sized answering machine, the endless references to inflation, the grocery store cashier actually saying the name of each item before ringing it up by hand ("toy gun, $1.95..."), etc.

    Jane Curtain actually does give the best performance, not only for her manic attempts to find cash, but for her impromptu striptease ("are you ready to see 1985, or should we skip right to 1990?"). The chemistry between Jane and Jessica Lange's character is quite good. Poor Susan Saint James...her character is annoying, whiny, and basically she serves as the Curly of this trio. (Yeah, I'd bring my kids to rob a store too...)

    In all, this is a cute, silly time capsule to the dark days of inflation, 17% mortgage interest rates, slanted wood houses with lots of poorly utilized space, ferns, etc. One funny note: Jane Curtain's character makes numerous references to prostitution (to the gas station attendant, to the gals at the restaurant, and to Jack--the copy played by Dabney Coleman).
  • Look at those clothes! Look at that wood paneling! Right on!

    This movie has everything: ugly shopping mall, kids swearing, an anique shop accually called "the olde antique shop-ee", references to retainers being tightened (not a pleasent memory :P), people smoking everywhere, Jane Curtain exposing herself!

    The writing is some of the worst I have experienced. You're in for a treat. The exposition is clumsy. The jokes are so corny. The storyline is literally held together with a wad of scotch tape and long string of contrived gags, dated jokes, and tired film conventions.

    However, I liked it. Call me crazy. It had heart. The comedic timing is right on. All three of the female leads are genuinely funny and they had true chemistry. Jane Curtain is hilarious, she can really take some pretty bad writing and work magic with it. (hey just look at Saturday night live!). In the end, there's always a generous supply of stock characters for all the ladies to play off of. Not only did I get a kick from the endless economy jokes, but the endless wardrobe changes, and endless earthtones. (The whole movie is one big blur of brown and green.)

    I honestly can't rate this movie, because it is beyond classification. Just wait until it comes on cable and tune in
  • When I saw this film in the theatre the entire audience was alive with laughter. There's more story here than most contemporary comedies, which may make for some head scratching by younger folks seeing this film, but the gags hold for anybody who's had to scrimp and save to make ends meat.

    This is a timeless film for anyone (woman particularly) who've fallen on hard times. It was a hit when it was first released, and still gets laughs today.
  • Jane Curtin is paranoid, Susan St. James is harried, and Jessica Lange is beautiful and married to dork Richard Benjamin. This light-hearted yup flick is fairly ridiculous, but the charms of these wonderful actresses makes it worthwhile. I give it a 6 out of 10 with the best performance by Jane Curtin.

    It's nice to see Jessica Lange in an early role when her youth and attractiveness hide the fact that she will become one of our best actresses while Ms. Curtin and Ms. St. James (who I also love since THE NAME OF THE GAME on TV) had careers that faltered (beside the TV show they did together - Kate and Allie). The men in this movie are mostly idiots, but this plays like a decent sit-com; fairly lame, but harmless fun.
  • This was the film that brought together Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin, who went on to have several successful seasons as "Kate and Allie". Jessica Lange is charming in an early comedy role. Key to the plot is a shopping center built on a river - at the time only found in Eugene, Oregon. If you like the stars, you will enjoy the performances, and the light-hearted story. While Susan Saint James was filming in Eugene, she did public service promos for the local Special Olympics organization. Another anecdote - the shopping center had a "Money Ball" which threw real bills all over the mall - after the shot, when the money was collected, they wound up with more than they started with. "Only in Eugene, Oregon!" chortled the director
  • After the success of NINE TO FIVE(another all-female lead comedy that took pot shots at the then-current economic malaise), the public was treated to HOW TO BEAT THE HIGH COST OF LIVING, a film that rides mainly on the comic efforts of Susan Saint-James, Jane Curtain, and Jessica Lange. All three women are facing various economic crises: Saint-James is a divorcee struggling with late child-support payments from her high-school coach ex; Curtain is a housewife dumped by her two-timing husband; and Lange is a dentist's wife whose side-line hobby of an antique store is breaking them. What to do? Plan a heist from a public relations gimmick at a local mall: a giant dome full of money that is the prize to a lottery. The comedy comes from the way these three bandits plan their rip-off. The film is full of various in-jokes about inflation and the energy crisis which used to look dated but now are becoming painfully relevant again. Garrett Morris takes a great cameo as an electric company worker whom Jane Curtain tries to hoodwink into turning her electricity back on. ("What's that mother? Your dialysis machine stopped going cur-chunk, cur-chunk? No, I'm not on the phone with Oral Roberts!")Not a masterpiece, to be sure, but a fun way to while away the time.
  • Three likable leads (Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin and Jessica Lange) are pretty much wasted in sloppy, colorless comedy about suburban housewives--put-upon and desperate!--scheming to rob a shopping mall of its contest booty. Too few visual gags and a stale script rob this movie of its charm, with the actresses struggling not to look like caustic harpies. Robert Scheerer directs as if he were working for television, with a cramped budget that makes the whole thing look junky. Good supporting cast, including Dabney Coleman and Richard Benjamin, is given little to do, while the ingenuity of the women is passed over for dumbed-down slapstick and a T&A shot. *1/2 from ****
  • "How to Beat the High Co$t of Living" was filmed here in my hometown. The scene where Jane Curtin does a strip-tease, and the money is sucked out of the giant plexiglass ball was filmed at Valley River Center on the shore of the Willamette River. The power company that where Garret Morris laughed at Jane's attempt to convince them not to cut off her power was our very own Eugene Water and Electric Board. This is one of the few roles Dabney Coleman had where he didn't play an idiot (compare to his role as John McKittrick in War Games, or his TV role as "Buffalo Bill," or as "Slap Maxwell"). All in all, a very fun movie. If you watch closely, you can identify various landmarks in Eugene. For example, the roof of Meier & Frank (which looks like a spinner from the game of "Life") is one of the distinctive features of Valley River Center. Jane and Susan and Jessica were all great in this movie, as were Richard Benjamin and Dabney Coleman. If you have the opportunity to rent this movie or to see it with a friend, be ready to laugh so hard that you tear up. In any case, SEE IT!!!!
  • Funnier than all the movies from Adam Sandler Freddie Prince or David Spade! This movie has lots of laugh out loud moments that are sadly missing from todays movies! The story is simple 3 women are broke. One her husband has left her and has taken everything! Another is she is a single mother of 2! The last her husband is suing her. All friends and they are all broke. Now there going to rob the mall! This is great caper comedy! What happens is a mad cap comedy! Critics didn't like this movie! A Filmways release! Not available on Home Video for years however it returned on DVD! The movie developed a loyal following when it started running on cable! Its time for the critics to review this movie again! Jane Curtin later co-stared with Susan St James in the TV Show Kate & Allie. She also co-stared with Dabney Colemen in "Maybe Baby".
  • garyldibert27 January 2009
    TITLE: HOW TO BEAT THE HIGH COST OF LIVING was release in theaters in the United States on July 11 1980. How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a 1980 comedy film, starring Jane Curtin, Susan Saint James, and Jessica Lange. Also in the cast are Dabney Coleman, Fred Willard, Richard Benjamin, Eddie Albert, Cathryn Damon, and a cameo by Jane Curtin's fellow Saturday Night Live co-star Garrett Morris.

    SUMMARY: Jane (Susan Saint James), Elaine (Jane Curtin), and Louise (Jessica Lange) are three suburbanites in Eugene, Oregon. These three women have been friends since high school, and are currently all struggling through the recession of the early 1980s. Jane is divorced, trying to cope with the man she is dating, Robert (Fred Willard), her newly-single father (Eddie Albert) who has just moved in with her after his wife leaves him for another woman, and her two young children, one boy and his younger sister whom needs dental work. At the same time as Robert needs thousands to buy his half of a business, Jane learns she is pregnant, which leaves neither of them very happy since both are near broke. Elaine's husband, an architect, has recently left her for a younger woman. He has also left her with no money, no credit cards, and many bills, all of which are very overdue (leading later to a scene with a man at the power company (Garrett Morris). She decides the best way to deal with this surprise situation by getting drunk and going for a drive, where she's caught by police officer Jack (Dabney Coleman). Due to the attraction, they both feel for one another, he lets her poor judgment slide. She finds that even a garage sale, in which she tries to sell everything her husband owned - including his deodorant - doesn't bring in any money. Louise owns and operates an antiques store; unfortunately, it's not a very successful operation, and she is always accepting funds from her veterinarian husband (Richard Benjamin) to keep the store open. While they are in bed one evening, in the early process of making love, she learns he plans to sue her to force her into bankruptcy and thereby wipe away the enormous debt she has incurred. At the peak of their woes, Elaine visits the local mall, where an acquaintance (Cathryn Damon) has pushed her into helping out with lighting a small pageant being held there. Making a phone call, she stares at the large, clear ball in the middle of the mall, which is soon due to hold thousands and thousands of dollars in giant cash "give away" and suddenly formulates the idea of stealing the money so the three of them can all get the money they need. She calls them to the mall, where they scheme to steal the money during the "give away" by drilling a hole beneath the cash ball and sucking out as much cash as possible with a high-powered vacuum, then escaping to the river behind the mall. Despite being caught in the act of stealing, some of the items needed for the heist by officer Jack, Elaine once again manages to sweet-talk their way out of being taken to prison. Later, on the evening of the heist, each of them finds an unexpected distraction but finally find their way to the mall, where Jane and Louise begin their work beneath the cash ball, and Elaine readies herself to throw the switch to the mall's light controls (which would give them all enough time to finish the job and escape unnoticed). Unfortunately, a minor occurrence takes place during both the giveaway and the pageant, nearly causing the police to notice the noise caused by Jane and Louise stealing the money. With no other way to distract the police, and the audience present, Elaine begins to rant about the high cost of living and how so many things cost "the shirt off your back - and even THAT'S not enough!" Very soon, she starts an impromptu striptease and ends with exposing her bosom to the crowd, effectively taking the attention away from what's REALLY going on. Shortly thereafter, one of the indoor light poles falls directly into the ball, sending cash flowing out into the mall, driving people into frenzy as they dive to collect the cash. Noticing the uproar going on above, Jane and Louise make their escape with two large trash bags filled with dollar bills, only to have their canoe tip over when Louise stands up.

    QUESTIONS: When the money fell into the river what Jane have to do? Why were both Jane and Louise sitting on the riverbank? Why did Elaine have a blanket with her? What went floating down the river that caught the three girls' attention? Why did Jane marry Robert ? Why did Louise reopen her?

    MY THOUGHTS: I love this movie because it caught my attention through the entire picture. I give Jane Curtin 6 stars because she wasn't bad in her movie debut. I thought that Jessica Lange was even better in her role as the doctor's wife. However, I bought this movie for two reasons. The first was Susan Saint James who looked great in jeans and everything else she wore. The second reason, Sybil Danning who was Albert receptionist and was excellent at it. Because of those two reasons, I give this movie 10 weasel stars.
  • BarnBum12115 August 2008
    I was not alive when this movie was made but i LOVED IT!! I admit, it was "old acting" but they casted great women for the lead rolls. They REALLY under rated it though. My friends agree with me b/c of "Jane Curtin's" striptease. Susan's characters was not as good as Jane Curtin and Jessica Lange's. Susans character was very ditsy most of the time. WHO brings their kids to a robbery!!!!! Jessica Lange's character was the smart one and Jane Curtin's Charator was clever. I recommend this movie to people who can deal with chick flicks. Its not very chick flicky but a lot of it was about romance. The beginning was boring but it got better as it got into it. You should really rent this movie!
  • triple817 April 2004
    Does anybody remember this movie which is rather dated now? I actually saw it in the theatres. It wasn't really to bad, a bunch of women who are having money problems decide to pull a heist by taking a large ball full of money in a shopping mall. It isn't a hilarious movie but it DID have it's moments. It's a fun movie to see if you like chick flicks AND heist movies-this combines the two and comes up with something, if not great, at least watchable.

    My main problem with this is how it doesn't really stick in your mind once you've seen it. It is sometimes funny but never really hilarious. The movie is watchable but never really great. It doesn't come close to being a great movie but is, all in all, a decent one that's good for a few laughs.
  • After about 25 years, I managed to once again watch this movie on the THIS channel. Unfortunately, some of the lines that I thought were funny were removed like a shoe employee asking "Did you see his sister's boobs?" in answer to his fellow co-worker mentioning someone's foot being smaller than the other. Good thing they didn't remove Elaine's "Suck" punchline when she figured out how to take the money out of that big ball at the mall. As that character, Jane Curtin has the best lines and also plays on her SNL persona well whether stripping in reference to inflation of upcoming years ("Wanna see 1985 or should we skip to 1990?") or talking to her TV show co-star Garrett Morris as an electrician on the phone in trying to convince him to get her power back on. Jessica Lange and Susan Saint James don't have as many moments as Ms. Curtin but they both have some moments. What's interesting here is knowing that not only will Ms. Curtin and Ms. Saint James reteam for "Kate and Allie" in a few years but also Ms. Lange with reunite with Dabney Coleman on Tootsie even sooner before that. Coleman himself is in a role very unlike his more famous role as the chauvinistic boss on Nine to Five later in the year though even here he provides some funny moments. The same can be said for Richard Benjamin as Lange's horny husband, Eddie Albert as Ms. Saint James' father, and Morris but Fred Willard, perhaps best known for his offbeat roles in many Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy films, seems wasted here as Ms. Saint James' fiancée. Overall, How to Beat the High Co$t of Living was quite funny if not completely hilarious. P.S. Garrett Morris is a native of New Orleans which is a two-hour drive from my current hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • This movie was very good. I've seen it three times I believe and would like to own it. It definitely relates to women in need and struggling to make it finanically in the real world alone (without a man's help). It was comical. The girls worked very well as a team. I'm going to try to find it as a rental today!
  • The plot of HOW TO BEAT THE HIGH COST OF LIVING (1980) is largely a reworking of the 'noir' caper film THE GOOD DIE YOUNG (1954). In addition to its female cast, the later film substitutes comedy for the bleak, pessmisitic 'noir' ethos of the original, but the plotting of the story is still largely the same.
  • I had a memory of loving this as a kid, so finally obtained it to watch here in 2019 almost 40 years later. Gulp.

    It's fun - a tale of a three women, their lives, and the interconnected hi-jinx that occur. My mind remembered the heist, which is clearly what excited me as a kid - when actually, it's a small part of the movie.

    What I love is how relevant it is today. Lots of economists spinning cost of living increases being only so many percentage points blah blah blah so disconnected from every day lives. 40 years later, nothing has changed on that one.

    What's particularly amazing is this is a female tour de force. Just recently we've had female-led casts such as Ocean's 8 or the ill-fated Ghostbusters and it feels forced. It's a statement. It's a fight to be fought.

    But here the women are utterly centre stage - the stories revolve around them, they plot the heist, they run it... there's no men here underpinning it. Men are the supporting cast, and it's brilliant as it's just so natural and stems so effortlessly from the script.

    It does it without fanfare - it just is. With confidence and style. Just like the actresses and story they inhabit.
  • Inflation is a, especially for these three women, all played with engaging performances (Jane Curtain is hot). With this causing woe to their lives, one of them is also being cheated on, they're forced to come up with a plan, of knocking over a place, the first few falling under the cracks. Their latest plan, involves knocking over a big ball of a money in a shopping centre, by sucking the money underneath, Jane Curtain, great at causing a diversion too. Lonely Curtain, strikes up a relationship, with cop Coleman (not the best romantic choices at this point) who was fun in this. Highly entertaining as this movie always will be, it says a lot about inflation, looking at some of the realistic causes. Ask the gas attendant (Art Metrano) when filling up Jackson's car, about the problems with oil, putting the righteous blame on the Arabs. An engaging comedy, just worth the watch for the hot curtain. Lange's smile, hidden under anger, as being the betrayed one, when confronting her husband, is irresistible, as we've seen many times before.
  • Three women (Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin and Jessica Lange) are having trouble trying to make ends meet. They try various ways to get money with some very funny complications arising.

    I saw this in a theatre in 1980. I was still fairly young so the recession of the late 1970s didn't really affect me--but I still liked it. I remember laughing long and loud along with the rest of the audience. The three women are in top form and the script is silly and totally unbelievable but it still works. With the exception of a brief mild nude scene (a topless woman is thrown in possibly to get a PG rating) this is family friendly. Not a hidden treasure but a fun, silly movie. Slightly recommended.
  • cppguy3 March 2012
    After years of skipping watching this flick I finally had a casual moment to watch it. I skimmed the other (mere 22) IMDb reviews and most seem to have this film pretty well pegged. (However, the 10 scores were a little ridiculous: this film isn't anywhere in the league of "Oceans 11" or "The Italian Job" as caper movers.) Nice to see a caper movie starring women. This film was clearly written and filmed in the waning years of the Carter administration (as indicated by release date of 1980) and I can say that the Heroines' frustrations were understandable. If you don't remember the era, trust me, the fears and attitudes are real. Sorry. I didn't mean to sound heavy. This is a fun film. It's a perfect retro film to watch with your S.O.
  • Well, while some may bash this poor film for its lack of character development and generally bad writing, you do have three funny actresses (Curtin and Saint James went on to Kate and Allie fame, if you can call it that) I saw this film when I was 13 years old, and what makes it a worthy rental, is Jane Curtin's striptease near the end of the movie. It had my little hormones raging, and it was just as potent when I saw the film 10 years later on video. So... rent the movie, fast-forward to that scene and enjoy. In the words of the famous attorney Jackie Childs, they are real, and they are fabulous.
  • HerbertRousch17 September 2003
    This is a then-topical lightweight comedy about the perils of inflation. Not terrible but nothing special, either. It reminds me of other comedies from that era like Harper valley, PTA, which must've looked good on paper. The cast is game and an opportunity to see Jessica Lange's incredible beauty is always welcome.
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