Stranger Than Paradise is a 1984 American absurdist/deadpan comedy film. It was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars jazz musician John Lurie, former Sonic Youth drummer-turned-actor Richard Edson, and Hungarian-born actress Eszter Balint. The film features a minimalist plot in which the main character, Willie, has a cousin from Hungary, Eva, stay with him for ten days before going to Cleveland. Willie and his friend Eddie eventually go to Cleveland to visit Eva.
The film is a three-act story about self-identified "hipster" Willie (John Lurie), who lives in New York City, and his interactions with the two other main characters, Eva (Eszter Balint) and Eddie (Richard Edson).
In the first act, Willie's cousin Eva comes from Hungary to stay with him for ten days because Aunt Lotte, whom she will be staying with, will be in the hospital. Willie at first makes it clear that he does not want her there. He even orders Eva to speak English for the ten-day period, not Hungarian. However, Willie soon begins to enjoy her company. This becomes especially true when Eva steals food items from a grocery store and gets a TV dinner for Willie, "You're alright." He ends up buying her a dress, which she later discards. After ten days, Eva leaves, and Willie is clearly upset to see her go. Eddie, who had met Eva previously, sees her right before she goes.
The second act starts a year later and opens with a long take showing Willie and Eddie winning a large amount of money by cheating at a game of poker. Willie decides, because of all the money they now have, to leave the city. They decide to go to Cleveland to see Eva. However, when they get there they are just as bored as they were in New York. For example, they end up tagging along with Eva and a friend, Billy, to the movies. They eventually decide to go back to New York.
The final act begins with Willie and Eddie, on their way back to New York, deciding to go to Florida. They turn around and "rescue" Eva. The three of them get to Florida and get a room at a hotel. They end up losing all 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. She ends up being mistaken by a drug dealer, and is given a large sum of money. She goes back to the hotel, 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 hotel. 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 hotel, returning to an empty room.
- John Lurie as Willie
- Eszter Balint as Eva
- Richard Edson as Eddie
- Cecillia Stark as Aunt Lotte
- Danny Rosen as Billy
- Rammellzee as Man With Money
- Tom DiCillo as Airline Agent
- Richard Boes as Factory Worker
- Rockets Redglare, Harvey Perr and Brian J. Burchill as Poker Players
- Sara Driver as Girl With Hat
- Paul Sloane as Motel Owner