June 6, 2013
Lost in America
Starring Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty
A couple of months ago, I praised Albert Brooks and Albert Brooks comedies in my review of Mother.
And, well, this review is going to be pretty much more of the
same. Because here is another great Albert Brooks movie that has
never received the respect that it deserves.
America, which I know that 75% of the people reading this have never
heard of before, is without question one of the single funniest
comedies of the 80's.
Lost in America is the story of the Howard family of Los Angeles.
David and Linda. Played by Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty.
Linda and David
David and Linda are what you would call your perfect upper-middle class suburban yuppies.
works for an advertising firm and he drives a BMW. Linda is a
high ranking sales executive. Together, they make a lot of money.
They own a nice house in Los Angeles. They have a lot of
friends. They throw parties and they swim in their pool.
Basically, on the surface, this is a couple who has really got
their shit together and who has figured out what they want out of life.
On the surface, David and Linda Howard appear to be happy.
Ah... but then... a downfall.
It wouldn't be an Albert Brooks movie without a downfall
One day at work, David doesn't get a promotion that he was expecting to get.
had planned the whole rest of his life around this promotion. He
had it all planned out in his head how his life was going to go
from here, and what new car he was going to buy, and what new
house he and Linda were going to move into.
When he gets in his boss's office, and he finds out that he didn't get this promotion, he snaps.
David announcing to Linda that he just quit his job. Oh, and he told his boss to fuck off.
a fit of anger, David quits his job. He decides that he doesn't
want to work for The Man anymore. He decides that he no longer
wants to be a part of the system.
David goes home for a while and he stays at home and he thinks about it. And he stews about it.
He brainstorms what exactly he wants to do with his life now.
And then one day, finally, in a fit of inspiration, it hits him.
he wants to drive around the country and see the world. He wants
to leave all his possessions behind, and drop out and live in a
Winnebago and just be a nomad for the rest of his life.
honey, doesn't this idea sound perfect? Wouldn't you like to drop
out of society and get back to our roots? Wouldn't you like a
chance to get out there on the road and live like a wanderer and live
on the road and touch Indians?
Hey, we can be just like the movie Easy Rider!
Come again? We're doing what now?
to say, Linda isn't really happy about the idea. Wait, so you
want us to be poor? You want us to drop out? But David is
relentless. And David happens to have a background in
advertising. So he eventually convinces her that the idea is
totally doable, and it will be fun.
After all, he says to
her, we have $100,000 saved up in our savings as a nest egg. What
could possibly go wrong? We have plenty of money saved up as a
safety net in case things don't work out.
And with the safety of their nest egg behind them, they are off
in America is one of those movies that is nearly impossible to describe
to people without spoiling all the jokes. And so I won't.
All I will say about this movie is that David and Linda get out
on the road, and things go wrong for them almost IMMEDIATELY. And
then you get the trademark Albert Brooks style of comedy where bad shit
just happens to him over and over, and he slowly gets angrier and angrier and
does a funnier slow burn.
Basically, if you have ever
watched Curb Your Enthusiasm or the Louis CK show, and you like that
awkward style of humor where bad things happen over and over and
characters get frustrated trying to react to them, you will enjoy
this movie. Albert Brooks was doing awkward Larry David slow burn comedy
way before it became popular.
Wait, Linda. Say that last part again. You did what?
in America is one of those movies that I first saw years ago. I
remember seeing it when I was a teenager and I really enjoyed it.
And then, like most Albert Brooks comedies, I kind of forgot
about it. Unfortunately, his style of comedy is the type that you never quite
remember after you see it, because it is not very flashy, and it never
really attracts a very large audience. Let's put it this way.
Albert Brooks has never been the type of moviemaker who
will pull off a $100 million comedy.
me, personally, I never
really appreciated Albert Brooks style of comedy until I was in my late
20's. Because that was the age that I started to get into
comedy writing myself. And I started to appreciate people who
could write movies that were funny without necessarily being
outrageous. Basically, I started to appreciate the guys who could
write "dialogue comedies." And that is when I got back into
Albert Brooks movies and I realized how g.d. funny they are.
me, anyone who writes comedy for a living knows Albert Brooks movies
very well. Because if you want to see how it is done, his scripts
are usually considered the gold standard.
"Please don't call me Retardo."
so there you go. Lost in America. One of the truly great
forgotten comedies of the 80's. In fact, among Albert Brooks
comedies (which have always had a very loyal following) this one is
often considered to be his best. And for a guy who wrote some
pretty outstanding movies, that is saying something.
Oh, and I
can't resist pointing out that this is one of the few movies out there
starring Julie Hagerty, who has always been funny in everything.
Especially now that she knows that birds live in a round stick
actually went back and I rewatched Lost in America just last week,
because I wanted to see if it held up as well as I thought it would.
And damn, it's funny. If you aren't used to Albert Brooks
dry awkward comedy you might not get into it at first, but just wait.
Just give the movie about half an hour. Because it builds.
And it builds. And then at the end you get the famous
"$100,000 job box" scene and that's about as funny as a movie scene can
get. I wish I could write dialogue as well as Albert Brooks does.
Screw you guys. I'm goin' home.
in America. For everyone who has ever wanted to drop out of
society and touch Indians. And who doesn't have a problem eating
shit and apologizing if it doesn't work out.
Be sure to get your hands on a copy of it.
Oh yes and P.S. Lost in America was ranked #80 on Bravo's list of the 100 Funniest Movies of All Time.
favorite IMDB user reviews about Lost in America:
Albert Brooks is a genius - 29 June 2000
script is just *fantastic*. We begin with an unhappy yuppie speaking in
hypothetics, searching for a way to change his life. The plans that he
based the rest of his yuppie-hood are quickly sullied, and this
springboards him into a new way of life (which is justified by the
"success" of fictional characters in his favorite movie). He takes his
suppressed wife along with him, and just like that, without anyone
really noticing, "Lost In America" is off to the races.
every one of Albert Brooks' films are damn near perfect, it is silly to call this
his best film. But it certainly is his most focused. The subplots are a
little more than quick, sketch-like detours, leaving the central story
of what actually happens when responsible people drop out to fill the
screen for all ninety-one minutes of neurotic bliss.
smartest thing Brooks could have done was to make it appear as if this
was a movie about two people with a lot of money and a Winnebago
travelling across country, encountering hijinks along the way. In fact,
this movie is about reality. This movie's about two people who
liquidate their assets, buy a Winnie, set out for the rest of their
lives, and then LOSE EVERYTHING. The comedy of "Lost In America" is
imbedded in the "what now?" expression that the star and director
carries in his eyebrows. What could be angled for heavy dramatic
purposes is turned into situational comedy (the main character's wife
leaving him, going off with an ex-convict, who then beats up the main
character is FUNNY?) beautifully by the writers (Brooks and frequent
co-conspirator Monica Johnson).
Albert Brooks is NOT a West Coast Woody Allen. Woody Allen, as much as I love him, isn't this funny in his best movie.
I've seen the future! - 23 September 2005
it's a bald headed man from New York! There are so many great lines -
Garry Marshall is fantastic as the casino owner - from his opening "We
have to tawk" to "Schmucks like Wayne Newton?" - he's underrated and
used to perfection in this film. Hey, I even like the bellhop who shows
the couple-to-be-married to their room. "Is this the bridal suite?" "I
don't know." "Does this open to another room?" "I don't know." "Can you
push these beds together?" "I don't know." Understated and hilarious.
is among Brooks' best movies. Along with Defending Your Life, and of
course, Real Life, Brooks is an absolute master at dry, subtle humor.
this movie came out, I was about ten years away from being the "right"
age to blow up at my boss, drop out and live free like in Easy Rider.
When I got to the right age, I had kids and obligations, so this movie
lets me live vicariously. And I don't even have to eat **** in order to
ALBERT BROOKS: YOU RULE!!!! - 14 May 2001
said Albert Brooks is an acquired taste? After watching "The Muse,"
which until this day remains the FUNNIEST comedy I've ever seen, I've
been curious about Brooks's work. Since this had its place on the AFI's
funniest comedies of all time, I decided I'd check it out.
I didn't feel this was quite as funny as "The Muse," Brooks delivers
his trademark sarcastic comic gags. It's hilarious to watch Brooks, a
yuppie businessman who just quit his job, try to apply for a job among
the lower class. Asking if there are any "executive positions."
has the best timing among all the comic actors. His style of delivering
his brilliantly sarcastic dialogue is impeccable and almost never fails
to crack me up! Brooks's movies are not only funny, but they're
well-written. Lots of the time comedies move on the sheer energy of the
cast. In his films, the writing alone is energized enough and the cast
adds to that energy. Brooks and Julie Hagerty have an incredible
chemistry, and their conflicts are absolutely hysterical. "From now on,
you will never be allowed to use the words 'nest' or 'egg' ever again!"
That's a line I will always remember. Brooks has that memorable, unique
style of writing that I'm sure comedy writers everywhere will either
acknowledge thoroughly or try to imitate (unsuccessfully, of course).
thing I just cannot understand is the R-rating. Brooks, being one of
the few tasteful, intelligent comedy writers in the biz, rarely uses
profanity in his movies. Only twice do we hear the "f" word, and for
the right reasons (He was angry at his boss for God's sake!). I'm
well-aware that the PG-13 rating wasn't invented when the movie came
out, but "Sixteen Candles" used the "f" word twice and got away with a
PG, as well as a shower scene involving a female and a notorious
close-up of her breasts. Don't expect anything filthy in this movie,
because of the stupidly-awarded R-rating. Brooks doesn't sink that low.
all those who appreciate good, intelligent humor--an escape from cheap
slapstick and gross-out gags. Not that I don't appreciate that type of
humor ever, but this is REALLY what comedy is all about!
Even FUNNIER in post-bubble 2002. - 7 October 2002
can ANYBODY think this movie is dated? I just watched it for the first
time in years - and it's even MORE appropriate for these times.
male yuppie type-A doesn't get the "right" job and so convinces his
wife to dump her job too so that they can "touch Indians" and "find
themselves" - with the help of a gigantic motorhome and a nest egg of
100-odd thousand dollars. And of course the SECOND that things don't
work out, they give in and go back their former yuppie lives. YES, the
movie is short (blissfully short - 91 minutes of pure comic genius) but
the sudden conclusion and mad dash across the country is the whole
point...! It couldn't have ended any other way!
alone is wonderful enough, but throw in the fabulous comic timing of
both Brooks and Julie Haggerty, great supporting performances,
impressive directing from Brooks and a near-perfect screenplay, and I
believe you have what ya might call... a GREAT FILM!
My vote for
funniest line? Tie between "Touch that keno card and I will kill you...
I will kill you" and "You couldn't change your life on a hundred
masterpiece - 12 September 2006
comedies can truly be called cinematic masterpieces. Particularly in
the last two decades we've seen a real scarcity of comic inspiration in
the cinema. Albert Brooks' "Lost in America" is brilliant. Easily the
best comedy of the bloated 1980s, possibly of the last thirty years. It
ranks among the works of Preston Sturges in terms of sheer comic
Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty are a Los Angeles
yuppie couple who are happily married but feel stuck in the go-go 1980s
decade of shallow materialism. When Brooks doesn't get the promotion he
feels he deserves he spontaneously quits and convinces his wife to do
the same. they liquidate their assets, buy a mobile home and ride off
"just like Easy Rider" into America, to find themselves and "touch
One thing about Brooks' comedy style: it is brutally,
brutally cynical. You just know their jaunt into the heartland of
America isn't going to end well. And yet, Brooks' sincerity about his
character "making a statement" about selling everything and going off
in search of America is clearly genuine. That what makes this film so
remarkable. This is a portrait of an artist in wild conflict with
himself. When Brooks sees the Mercedes at the end and the film shifts
to soft-focus lighting and we hear a choir singing - that has to be one
of the funniest, yet most cynical moments in any comedy ever made.
would highly recommend this film to anyone. However, not everyone
"gets" Brooks' style of comedy. Some people seem to find him annoying.
But he is one of the funniest men alive, too.
Also, the scene
with Brooks and the casino manager when Brooks pitches his advertising
"idea", is one of the funniest scenes in film history.
Underrated Classic - 2 December 2004
not laugh out loud funny. It's not very long. It's not particularly
obvious. This film is like a joke that doesn't make you laugh when you
hear it but that gets funnier and funnier as time goes on and you find
yourself in situations that remind you of this movie. This is a
thoughtful, subtle work of reality film. I would love to befriend the
Howards, which is a tribute to the affectionate nature of the
performances. Perfect casting. Classic, memorable one-liners. A gem.
It's interesting that more films aren't made of the wacky plots that
life's great imagination throws up. Yes, there are lot's of true crime
works, usually given the Hollywood treatment. The events in some
people's lives are so unlikely and unusual that there is definitely
more scope for the reality genre. Very challenging to script, act and
direct with the kind of delicate restraint as we see in Lost in America.
favorite scene in Lost in America:
To be honest, I don't think I have ever not loved any scene in a
Albert Brooks movie where he snaps and gets frustrated about something.
But I have to say that the scene where Brooks is trying to find a
job that pays $100k a year in a rural Arizona employment office is just
about the all time perfect comedy scene.
Lost in America
at the IMDB
Lost in America
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