Echo Park [1986]

"I love that everyone is really an actress, is really a singer," confesses the ever hopeful Susan Dey, a bartender turned singing strip-o-gram still waiting for her big break. So, apparently, does director Robert Dornhelm, an Austrian who brings a fresh eye and an easygoing sympathy to a familiar story. Dey's new roommate, pizza delivery guy/budding songwriter Tom Hulce, is hopelessly in love with her while she falls madly into bed with her delightfully deluded duplex neighbor Michael Bowen, an Austrian bodybuilder ("body sculptor," he's quick to correct) waiting to become the next Schwarzenegger. The modesty of this 1986 American indie is infectious: they may never get their break, but the little family they make will provide the support they need along the way. Cheech Marin costars as Bowen's training-gym boss, and that's Cassandra ("Elvira") Peterson as the gym receptionist. --Sean Axmaker

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