Paul and Madeline Philips (John Lithgow and Kathryn Walker) are an upper-middle-class Manhattan couple who are ready to split up. The only thing holding them together is Paul's concern not to unduly shock Franny (Trini Alvarado), their 12-year-old daughter. She's a lot less dense than either of her parents think. For instance, she can finagle almost anything by making her request when her mother is suffering from early morning blahs. And Franny has already discovered that her father doesn't spend the night at home anymore but sneaks in just in time to greet her when she wakes up.
Franny's best friend is Jamie (Jeremy Levy), a new boy in school. He knows what she's experiencing since his parents are already divorced. His mother (Roberta Maxwell) has remarried a cheesy psychiatrist (Paul Dooley); his father (Terry Kiser), a producer of TV commercials, dates swinging singletons whom Jamie privately grades according to their dopiness.
A minor crisis is precipitated when Jame and Franny get together at his father's pad for a session by themselves. One area is a tropical paradise of plants, fish, and birds. In another room there's a waterbed, wraparound mirrors, music system, and a large TV consul. Although Franny has furtively been reading The Joy of Sex, Jamie is not quite ready to take this particular step. Instead they eat pizza, watch a horror flick, and take a bubble bath together. Things go crazy when both sets of parents and a host of lovers and strangers descend upon the place and find Franny and Jamie in the tub.
Robert M. Young (Short Eyes) directs Rich Kids with a good eye for the tiny triumphs in Manhattan, the playground for the affluent. Since the film is a Robert Altman production, it comes as no surprise that the looseness of the storyline and the wackiness of the characters blend together in a totally delightful way. However, unlike recent Altman works, this drama is not a downer in any sense of the word.
Kathryn Walker is just right as Franny's messed-up mother caught on the fence between liberation and a longing for things as they were. And Jeremy Levy and Trini Alvarado give youthful resiliency a good name.