Friday, November 4, 2011

Stubs - Lost In America

File:Lost in america.jpg
LOST IN AMERICA (1985) Starring: Albert Brooks and Julie Haggerty. Directed by Albert Brooks. Written by Albert Brooks and Monica Johnson. Produced by Marty Katz. Music by Arthur B. Rubinstein. Run Time: 91 minutes. Color. U.S., Comedy

Triple threat Albert Brooks’ third feature, LOST IN AMERICA tells the story of two Los Angeles yuppies who suddenly find out they are not as upwardly mobile as they once thought and decide to drop out of society.

David (Albert Brooks) and Linda Howard (Julie Haggerty) are on the brink of big changes in their lives. They are about to move into a new house and David is on the verge of a big promotion to Senior Vice President at the ad firm where he works. So convinced is he that his ship has come in, that he considers buying a new Mercedes Benz.

But Linda hates the new house and David doesn’t get the promotion. Instead, his boss, Paul Dunn (Michael Greene) offers David the chance to work on the Ford Motors account, the agency’s newest. No promotion and David will be required to move to New York and work under Brad Tooley (Tom Tarpey), the Sr. VP in that office. David doesn’t take the bad news very well and tells off his boss and gets fired.

He then convinces Linda to quit her job in the Broadway’s (now Macy’s) Human Resources department. His idea is that they will leave not only LA but the lifestyle they feel trapped in and go on the road, a la EASY RIDER. But instead of a hog, David suggests buying a Winnebago. By liquidating everything they own and including the equity they have on their old house, David is convinced they can drive around the country and live off their nest egg forever, or until they find someplace else they’d like to live. Linda goes along and the two set out for their adventure.

First stop, Las Vegas to renew their wedding vows. But they arrive late and Linda suggests they spend the night at a luxury hotel and get married in the morning. David reluctantly goes along and the two end up in a Junior Bridal Suite at the Desert Inn, which oddly enough has two heart-shaped beds in it. They agree to wake up the next morning, get married and continue their drop out from society.

All is well until the next morning. David wakes up alone and finds Linda down in the casino losing big. And by big, she has gambled away the couple’s nest egg. Day two and they are broke. And it is at this point, the movie seems to slow down. After a lame attempt to get the Desert Inn to give them back their money, David and Linda head to Hoover Dam. David is mad, but not letting it out and at Hoover Dam, ironically, he breaks.

Linda runs away, hitching a ride from a total stranger. David follows after them and finds them at a diner somewhere down the road. The man with Linda wants to fight David, who is clearly out muscled. He is saved when the police are called and the man runs, since he is wanted. Next the couple gets pulled over for speeding, but talk the officer out of the ticket by bringing up EASY RIDER, which happens to be the motorcycle cop’s favorite film.

After that, the couple decides to settle in the first place they come to, Safford Arizona, a small town with little opportunity. They each set out to find work. Linda gets a job as an assistant manager at a Der Weinerschnitzel and David as a crossing guard at a school. On his first day, David is reminded of the lifestyle he gave up when a man stops to ask how to get back to Los Angeles driving the same Mercedes Benz David was contemplating buying.

David and Linda decide that the best approach is to drive like crazy to New York and for David to get his old job back. In a hurried conclusion to the movie, they do just that, taking the long southern route from Arizona to New York via Texas, Alabama and the Carolinas. David emerges from the Winnebago just in time to confront Brad on the street in front of the ad agency’s offices. We’re told in an afterword text that David got his job back at a reduced salary and that Linda got a job at Bloomingdale’s.

I like Albert Brooks. He is a very funny man. His Comedy Minus One album (1973) is still funny after numerous listenings. But he was still a filmmaker in training at the point he made LOST IN AMERICA. He had only directed two feature films before this one, the heavily flawed REAL LIFE (1979) and his better, but still flawed second film MODERN ROMANCE (1981). (He had done a series of six short films for the first season of Saturday Night Live in 1975.) All three of his first features have some great, memorable and funny lines in them. But the premises are usually better than the final product. While LOST IN AMERICA is an improvement in many ways over his first two films, it still bogs down in places and some of the sketches are a little longer than they are funny.

Overall, though, it is a funny film and if you are a fan of Albert Brooks’ work, I would highly recommend it. However, if you have never seen an Albert Brooks directed movie before, you might want to start with DEFENDING YOUR LIFE (1991), or MOTHER (1996) or THE MUSE (1999). His work gets better and more consistent with time.

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