I don’t know if Lost In America is Albert Brooks’ best film—I think Modern Romance is pretty brilliant, and I have a soft spot for Defending Your Life—but it may well be Brooks’ most essential. Brooks and Julie Hagerty play middle-aged L.A. yuppie couple David and Linda Howard, who quit their jobs, buy a Winnebago, and plan to spend the rest of their lives exploring the country. To put it mildly, nothing goes right. Lost In America has Brooks doing another variation on his tightly wound, self-absorbed upper-middle-class character, and it also punctures the mythology of the American road picture (as well as the whole idea of Baby Boomers “finding themselves” a decade or two too late). But the movie is mostly just one crackerjack comic set-piece after another, with David trying and failing over and over to bend other people to his will. It’s hard to pick a favorite sequence, but David’s long speech about the meaning of “the nest egg” is a classic; and there’s a poignant awkwardness to the scene where David makes a desperate but well-thought-out argument for why a casino should give his money back. Lost In America is the essence of Brooks’ comic persona, in 90 packed minutes. It airs on Turner Classic Movies tonight at midnight.
November 14, 2014 newsreel