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Lost in America: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Lost in America: Criterion Collection

September 9, 2017

Director: Albert Brooks,
Starring: Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty, Michael Greene, Garry Marshall, Maggie Roswell, Tom Tarpey, Ernie Brown,

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DVD Review

If The Big Chill (1983) was the Baby Boomers at the height of their self-importance, then Albert Brooks’ Lost in America (1985) is its antithesis, a sly satire of the generation. The Boomers came of age in the 1960s and by the 1980s many had sold out their ideals from that prior decade in favor of materialism. Some, like Brooks, felt guilty about that and this film was his way of sorting out his feeling about it.

When David Howard (Brooks) fails to get the promotion he had hoped to get at the advertising agency he works at, he’s fired after flipping out on his boss in a hilariously uncomfortable scene. He convinces his wife Linda (Hagerty) to quit her job and they sell everything and buy a motor-home with the notion of hitting the open road and “find themselves” like in Easy Rider (1969). The rest of the film chronicles their misadventures as they try to recapture the idealism of their youth.

Brooks recreates the “Born to Be Wild” sequence from Easy Rider only with a large motor-home, which in and of itself is a funny image. David even passes a biker on a motorcycle who gives him the finger – the first indication that no one cares about their journey of self-discovery. The irony of all this is that David wants to be more spontaneous but he and Linda are the most predictable couple, which Brooks demonstrates repeatedly to hilarious effect, like when he tries to bribe a hotel clerk for the honeymoon suite (“If Liberace had children, this would be their room,” he says upon entering their room).

If anything Lost in America shows how indifferent the rest of the world is to David and Linda, like how they latter loses almost all their money gambling in Las Vegas. When the former asks the casino manager (Marshall) for their money back, not surprisingly, the uncaring man refuses, despite David’s desperate sales pitch. What worked in the world of advertising is ineffectual in the real world.

While the ‘80s were dominated by materialistic movies like St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) Back to the Future (1985), Lost in America flew in the face of them; daring to show how full of itself the Boomer generation had become and Brooks critiqued it with his trademark satirical wit. The end result is a wonderful snapshot of the times in which it was made.

Special Features:

Brooks’ supervised this new 2K digital transfer that features excellent detail and preserves the filmic look of how movies were shot back then. Lost in America has never looked better.

Albert Brooks and filmmaker Robert Weide have a conversation, starting things off by talking about how the protagonists in the films he wrote and directed are exaggerated extensions of himself. Brooks talks about how he got into directing, making short films for Saturday Night Live early on. He also talks about the genesis of Lost in America.

There is an interview with actress Julie Hagerty who talks about how she got the part, including her first meeting with Brooks. She talks about his working methods and recounts several filming anecdotes.

Also included is an interview with Brooks’ long-time manager Herb Nanas. He recounts first meeting the man and how funny he found him. Nanas speaks highly of Brooks and his career. He also talks about how he boosted the careers of Sylvester Stallone and Roseanne.

Filmmaker James L. Brooks talks about Albert Brooks’ unique comedic genius. He feels that Brooks’ directorial efforts are autobiographical and also talks about directing him and how good of an actor he is.

Also included is the theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 96%

Website: https://www.criterion.com/films/29022-lost-in-america

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