An early effort from director Jonathan Demme, Melvin and Howard takes off from a real-life situation – a contested will of Howard Hughes, who may have left millions to an unknown gas-station worker – and turns it into a comic satire on the fickleness of the American dream. As the movie opens, Melvin Dumar (Paul Le Mat) is a cheerfully down-on-his-luck aspiring songwriter who bounces between jobs, car repossessions and the whims of his flitting wife (a delightfully dippy Mary Steenburgen). Driving through the desert one night, he comes across an apparent vagrant (Jason Robards, making a ghostly impression in his few scenes) who claims to be Hughes. The two share a few songs together, Melvin drops him off in Las Vegas and that seems to be that – until years later, when Melvin mysteriously shows up in Hughes’ will. The majority of the movie takes place between those two events, charting the wayward downs and further downs of Melvin’s life. Melvin just shrugs his shoulders at it all, which is the movie’s attitude too. With a bouncy, rockabilly score and an eye for absurdly comic moments, Melvin and Howard suggests that it is a healthy sense of humor, not millions of dollars, that has more value in life.