LOST IN AMERICA
Review by Gordon Justesen
Brooks, Julie Hagerty
Director: Albert Brooks
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: July 25, 2017
“As the boldest experiment in advertising history, you give us our money back.”
Albert Brooks is without question one of the most original comedic minds that has ever graced filmmaking. His satiric approach was always a unique one, and one that was always subtle and charming without going too overboard. In the mid 80s, Brooks took his approach to that of everyday people living for the so called American dream in the form of the very funny and surprisingly somewhat relevant Lost in America.
Brooks plays David Howard, a successful advertising executive who’s expecting a big promotion. When he doesn’t get it, and gets fired after going on an extended tirade, he convinces his wife, Linda (Julie Hagerty), that they should just quit life and and hit the open road to find that missing piece that everyone seems to be searching for. Just like in Easy Rider...except, you know, in a Winnebago.
They are well off enough to pull off such a feat, so why not take a stab at it? And at first, it seems like a glorious decision. That is until they make a pit stop in Las Vegas, and the wife’s gambling addiction is revealed and puts an end to their nest egg.
The scenes that follow this turn in the story are what give the film it’s comedy gold. The best one of all is Brooks confronting the casino manager (Garry Marshall, in a terrific bit part) and, with all his ad exec intellect, asks for all their lost money back. And then there are other priceless moments, like the husband and wife forced to take low income jobs, with David doing cross traffic work and Linda taking a restaurant job and working for a teenage boss.
The film does seem to end itself too quickly and neatly, but so much of what proceeds it is so perfectly funny that it doesn’t even begin to weaken the overall product. Lost in America is both a pure skewering of its time and not entirely far off from our conditions today, as it would make sense to do what David and Linda do if one had the means. It’s the type of social satire that only the mind of Albert Brooks could have so perfectly realized.
This is a most terrific handling from Criterion, as we get a 2k restoration that was supervised by Albert Brooks himself. The many American landscapes appear tremendously vivid, and the Vegas scenery looks extremely authentic. There’s nothing in the presentation that comes across as dated or in any way flawed in the picture presentation, as we get a perfectly natural looking picture with bits of grain to spare here and there.
A most serviceable PCM Mono mix that provides a great balance of dialogue and background surroundings. We also get some added boost on the sound mix thanks to the inclusion of both Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” on the soundtrack. But the dialogue is the central attraction here, and it all come across in terrifically clear form from beginning to end.
Included on this Criterion release is a 30 minute interview piece with Albert Brooks and filmmaker Robert Weide that is most insightful as Brooks reveals quite a bit including his desire to cast Bill Murray in the lead role at one point. We also get new video interviews with Julie Hagerty, executive producer Herb Nanas and writer/director James L. Brooks. Lastly, we have a Trailer and an insert featuring an essay by critic Scott Tobias.
Albert Brooks was, and remains, a one of a kind comedic voice in film. Lost in America is one of his most cherished works as a writer, director and actor. It’s hard to find a film that was relevant to both the 80s and today, but this is such a rare gem!