Ed Tuttle (Howard Hesseman) is at a seminar for The Organisation, which leads its followers into a state of self-actualisation through the selling of real estate. Ed is enthusiastically getting into the swing of things, lustily participating in the call and response the leader of the meeting (Michael Greene) is conducting, and when he is ordered to go forth and prosper with the rest of the members, he heads out to invite as many people as he can to the next seminar, which happens tomorrow evening. Easier said than done, as it turns out, but Ed might have a customer in Rubin Farr (Crispin Glover), a local eccentric...
If there was one thing that British company Working Title were famed for in the nineteen-nineties, it was their comedies: movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bean, and a host of Coen Brothers efforts. What it was not so well known for was this little item, a determinedly off kilter road movie of sorts which was brought to the screen by Trent Harris, a man whose cult has been small but significant among his fans. Harris was probably best known for his underground classic The Beaver Trilogy, a trio of stories based around an odd fellow he met in a parking lot, but he did make other films as well, and the most popular of those others is Rubin and Ed.
The reason why this one is slightly higher profile than his other works is that its star, Glover, went onto national television in the Rubin guise, complete with his platform shoes, tight, stripy bell bottoms, thick glasses and enormous wig, and made himself a minor part of broadcasting history when he managed to get chat show host David Letterman to walk off his own show. He did this by acting so strangely, including aiming a kick which narrowly missed Letterman's head, that the interview was true car crash television, and cemented the public perception of Glover as a crazy man. The fact that he was acting out a role which would not see the light of day for a few years later did not dim those views.
Indeed, many who saw the performance still believe that Crispin was acting the way he did in real life, and remain unaware that there was a film his talk show appearance was building up to: Rubin and Ed was that film. It was meant to be funny, a sort of buddy movie that in the tradition of such things had the duo representing a typical chalk and cheese relationship, except that their behaviour was, to say the least, unusual. Rubin has left his apartment only because his mother is sick of him playing Mahler at full volume and accompanying the sound with a rubber squeaky mouse, all in tribute to his dead cat which is preserved in the freezer; his mother demands he find a proper friend and Rubin is forced into wandering the streets in search of one.
Ed is that hapless chap who falls victim to Rubin's idiosyncrasies, mainly because he wants to prove to The Organisation and his shrewish, estranged wife Rula (Karen Black) that he has what it takes to make a success of his life. We can tell from the start that Ed is a loser, what with his huge hairpiece and air of desperation, not to mention that the only person he can get to talk to him is the cat aficionado who arranges with him to meet at the apartment for dinner, and then, yes, he'll go to the seminar. So begins a rambling excursion where they of course miss the meeting due to Rubin being so keen to bury his cat, which they take out the deserts of Utah in the middle of the night, a night which becomes morning when they realise they are lost. Both main characters are deluded in their own way, but it's Rubin who seems to have the integrity that Ed lacks, thanks to a purity of purpose to his existence that takes little notice of convention. Although it does mean he drinks sweat from an Odor-Eater and dreams of a waterskiing cat. To each their own, eh? Music by Fred Myrow.