Rodney Dangerfield. He didn’t get no respect but he did smoke a lot of weed.
It’s true. Rodney first lit up in 1942 when he was a 21 year-old struggling nightclub comic. According to his widow, the moment meant so much to Rodney that, decades later, he could still remember the room number — 1411, at the Belvedere Hotel in New York City — where he and fellow comedians Bobby Byron and Joe E. Ross smoked that first joint. That was back when Rodney was performing under the name Jack Roy. (His was born Jacob Cohen.) Rodney’s first comedy career went so badly that he quit and spent the next twenty-two years as an aluminum siding salesman until he found the courage to return to the stage. However, whether he was selling or performing, Rodney never stopped smoking marijuana. When he was working on his autobiography, he wanted to call it My Lifelong Romance With Marijuana. His wife convinced him to go with a different title: It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs.
There’s plenty of drugs in Easy Money, which is a problem for baby photographer Monty Capuletti (Rodney, of course). Monty likes to gamble, drink, and smoke pot, much to the disapproval of his wealthy mother-in-law (Geraldine Fitzgerald). When she dies, she stipulates in her will that if Monty goes for a year without indulging in any of his vices, he and his family will receive 10 million dollars. Sounds easy, right? The only problem is that Monty really likes to eat, drink, gamble, and get high. His best friend (Joe Pesci) doesn’t think he can do it. His mother-in-law’s former assistant, Quincy Barlow (Jeffrey Jones), is determined to catch Monty slipping back into his old ways so that he can inherit the money. Monty’s determined, though, to win the money for his family, especially now that his daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has married the bizarre Julio (Taylor Negron).
The episodic plot is really just an excuse for Rodney to be Rodney, spouting off one liners and making snobs like Quincy look foolish. Rodney and Joe Pesci were a surprisingly effective comedy team. The scene where they get stoned and try to drive home without damaging the huge wedding cake in the back of the van is a hundred times funnier than it has any right being. Even though it is hard to imagine her being, in any way, related to Rodney Dangerfield, Jennifer Jason Leigh is always a welcome presence. Like many comedies of that era, Easy Money is uneven, with as many jokes failing as succeeding but, for Rodney Dangerfield fans, it is a must see.