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MOVIE REVIEW : An Unpretentious ‘Rich Girl’

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Rich Girl” (citywide) asks the question: Can a Bel-Air heiress (Jill Schoelen) find happiness with a struggling rock singer (Don Michael Paul) raised on Skid Row?

The answer this unpretentious, ingratiating movie provides is more credible than one might expect, thanks to writer Robert Elliot, who seasons romantic fantasy with just enough realistic grit, and to director Joel Bender’s warm-hearted yet crisp, driving direction.

Bored with everything, Schoelen defies her dominating tycoon father (Paul Gleason) to quit school, break off her engagement to her opportunistic fiance (Steve Kanan) and strike out on her own at the age of 21. Without qualifications for an office job, she winds up accepting a job as a nightclub waitress. It’s hard, down-to-earth work, but Schoelen discovers that she is happy, maybe for the first time in her life, certainly for the first time since her mother’s death seven months earlier.

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She immediately attracts Paul, a big, sexy, easygoing guy, but what will happen when he finds out her true identity? “Rich Girl” (rated R for language, some sex and drugs), is quite credible in its sympathetic depiction of the difficulty rich kids have in living their own lives. What is most touching, however, is that Paul’s hard-working singer is strictly a middle-of-the-road rocker, a solid club entertainer, not the kind of guy who’s likely to make it big despite the title of his group, Breakout. (Paul does not do his own singing, but you’d never know it.)

Schoelen and Paul are thoroughly likable, and Ron Karabatsos provides terrific support as the club’s tough but wise and compassionate proprietor. Rounding out the film’s many pluses is the film’s 23 hard-rocking songs and Levie Isaacks’ camera work, which captures well the striking contrasts in the story’s settings.

‘Rich Girl’

Jill Schoelen: Courtney

Don Michael Paul: Rick

Sean Kanan: Jeffrey

Ron Karabatsos: Rocco

A Studio Three and Film West presentation. Director Joel Bender. Producer Michael B. London. Executive producers Mark Hoffman, Steven H. Parker. Screenplay by Robert Elliot. Cinematographer Levie Isaacks. Editors Mark Helfrich, Richard Candib. Costumes Janet Sobel. Music Jay Chattaway. Production design Richard McGuire. Set decorator Charlie Doane. Sound Bo Franklin, Ken Segal. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (for language, sensuality, drug content).

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