Stranger Than Paradise (1984) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A New Yorker's life is thrown into a tailspin when his younger cousin surprise visits him, starting a strange, unpredictable adventure.

    Will S
  • A self-styled New York hipster is paid a surprise visit by his younger cousin from Budapest. From initial hostility and indifference a small degree of affection grows between the two. Along with a friend, they eventually end up visiting their aunt in the wastelands of Cleveland and then proceed to Florida where they lose all their money gambling before unwittingly gaining a fortune.

  • The New World: The teenager Eva Molnar arrives in New York City from Budapest, Hungary, and visits her cousin Willie, A.K.A. Bela Molnar. Eva intends to travel to Cleveland to stay with her Aunt Lotte, but the old woman is in the hospital and Eva has to stay with the idle Wille, who is absolutely indifferent to her. They spend their empty days smoking Chesterfields, watching television and playing solitaire and Eva meets Willie's friend Eddie. Then Willie and Eddie are connected to Eva and they miss her when she travels to Cleveland. One Year Later: Willie and Eddie win a large amount in the poker game and they borrow a car and travel to Cleveland to visit Eva. They spend a few boring days in the house of Aunt Lotte. Paradise: Willie and Eddie invite Eva to vacate to Florida with them. Shortly after arriving there, they lose their money in dog racing. Willie decides to bet their last money in the horse racing and they win money. Meanwhile Eva is wrongly taken for another woman and receives a huge amount of cash from a stranger.

  • The interrelationships between Hungarian Eva, her New York residing hipster cousin Willie who distances himself from family and his Hungarian heritage, and Willie's best friend Eddie are presented in three acts. In Act One, Eva has just arrived in New York - her first time in the United States - and will be staying with Willie in his stark and bleak one room apartment for ten days before she heads to Cleveland to take care of their Aunt Lotte. Aunt Lotte asked Willie to do her and Eva this favor, but he makes it clear to both women that he does not want Eva there, and does not want Eva to *be* Hungarian let alone speak Hungarian. Eddie, on the other hand, likes his friend's cousin, but Eva is still left to her own devices without much to do. An incident before Eva's departure to Cleveland changes the dynamic between the three. In Act Two, Willie and Eddie, who have just come into a windfall albeit by less than ethical means, decide to visit Eva and by association Aunt Lotte in Cleveland. Both Aunt Lotte and Eva are happy to see the pair, but a year and distance may have changed the situation between the three, while the location does nothing to add to it. In Act Three which immediately follows Act Two, Willie and Eddie, on the spur of the moment, decide to invite Eva to Florida with them rather than return back to New York, if only to escape winter. There, Willie and Eddie are more concerned with the routine of their lives and what they know, however unimaginative, than they are with being in Florida or with Eva. Eva, coming upon an opportunity, has to decide what to do about her life in the US as a whole.

  • Willie is a pre-slacker-era slacker living in New York City. His cousin Eva from Hungary visits him for several days before going to Cleveland to stay with their Aunt Lotte. A year later, Willie and his friend Eddie take a road trip to Cleveland to visit Eva and Aunt Lotte.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • A teenage girl named Eva (Eszter Balint) has arrived from Hungary standing outside an airfield full of airplanes coming and going not sure where to go and about to move forward.

    A single, self-centered, and unemployed young hipster slacker named Willie (John Lurie), who has lived in America for over 10 years abandoning his Hungarian roots and insistent on speaking only English, lives in a simple one room apartment on Manhattan's lower east side and answers a telephone with his Hungarian aunt Lottie telling him he has a niece of his arriving to visit him and stay for a short time. He's annoyed that it will disrupt his otherwise private life. She has to go into the hospital for 10 days and Eva will have to delay her visit on seeing her until then and stay with Willie.

    The young lady, Eva, is walking to Willie's apartment on the lower east side and we get glimpses of a lonely, desolate landscape of a part of Manhattan few are familiar with as she walks down the street playing Screamin' Jay Hawkins on a tape recorder singing "I've Got a Spell on You"

    Eva arrives at Willie's apartment and he's not all that thrilled about her visitation disrupting his otherwise monotonous and lonely lifestyle. He lets her in and gives her a place to sleep. During this timeframe, Willie does little besides watch TV, sleep, introduce her to TV dinners, play solitaire, and introduce her to his friend Eddie, a fellow friend. During this timeframe, little happens, but the two bond together and he accepts her as family.

    After staying with Willie over a week, Eva leaves to board a train to Cleveland, where her Aunt Lottie lives. Eddie comes to say goodbye to her on the street after she leaves Willie's apartment changing out of a tacky dress he bought her. Eddie then goes to Willie's apartment and the two of them have a beer together with no conversation.

    A year later, Eddie and Willie are having a poker game at a man's apartment and they win over $600 with one man outraged that they cheated, but they walk out with the loot and intend to travel with it.

    Soon afterwards, Eddie and Willie borrow an old 1965 Plymouth out of New York City bound for Cleveland to see Eva. During the trip, little happens except Willie annoying Eddie from time to time trying to have conversation with him and both of them realizing the weather is just getting colder.

    Willie and Eddie arrive in Cleveland at his Aunt Lottie's modest house in a lonely industrial section. Lottie is a feisty and witty elderly woman that welcomes them to her home feeding them a hearty meal of goulash and bread before they pick Eva up from work.

    Willie and Eddie pay a surprise visit to Eva at the hot dog stand she works at and pick her up from work. Eddie is delighted he was remembered.

    Some time later, the trio are living monotonously at Aunt Lottie's home still bored at not doing anything, but Eva invites them to a Kung Fu movie with a boyfriend that they're not impressed with. And the four of them are bored with the movie.

    Still bored with their visit, the trio are challenging Aunt Lottie to a card game she keeps winning and they go to see Lake Erie. Willie and Eddie are fed up with the cold and boredom and decide to take off back to New York City. They are frustrated and want to pick up Eva and go to Florida. They go back to take Eva, despite Aunt Lottie's protests. She opposes them endlessly in Hungarian after they pick up Eva and she calls them "a son of a bitch".

    Soon after arriving in Florida, they don't find it any more thrilling and they stay at a lonely motel

    Willie and Eddie end up losing most of their money on dog races. At this point, they decide to go back and bet on horse races. Willie refuses to let Eva come along, so she goes out on the beach for a walk.

    Eva ends up being mistaken by a drug dealer, and is given a large sum of money. Right after being given the money, a woman dressed almost identical to her shows up with nobody around.

    Eva goes back to the motel, leaves some of the money for Willie and Eddie, and writes them a note explaining that she is going to the airport, and then goes there. When she arrives, she discovers that the only flight to Europe left that day is to Budapest, which is where she originally came from. She decides to wait until the following day, and goes back to the motel. Willie and Eddie end up winning all of their money back at the horse races. But when they get back, Eva is gone, and Willie reads her note and they go to the airport to stop her from leaving. When they get there, Willie conceives a plan: buy a ticket, get on the plane, find Eva and convince her to stay in the states. What Willie didn't know was that at the time Eva made her decision about flying back to Budapest, there was only one free seat left on the plane. The second to last shot shows Eddie outside watching the plane leave, and he realizes what has happened. The final shot shows Eva back at the motel, returning to an empty room.

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