Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Movie Review of the Week

Say it! Say it! Say "I lost the nest-egg." Go on, say it!

Albert Brooks wrote, directed, and starred in Lost In America, an often overlooked comedy that also stars Julie Haggerty.

It's the story of an advertising executive who does not get the promotion he believes he has been groomed for and is sure he deserves. He is so disillusioned that he quits his job completely and convinces his wife to quit her job as well. They sell their home and all of their possessions, buy a Winnebago, and set out to explore America--free spirits, no ties, no worries. They have a nest egg.

Their first stop is Las Vegas where they plan to renew their vows, but during their first night, Julie Haggerty's character discovers the intoxicating lure of gambling. While under its spell, she loses the nest egg, all but a few hundred dollars anyway. So, there they are--no home, no jobs, no free spirit. Brooks delivers his best ad-agency sales pitch for the casino owner to convince him to return the money, like offering a mulligan and making his place The Casino with a Heart. The pitch fails, of course, and they are forced to leave Las Vegas with the Winnebago as their only home.

Brooks gets a job as a crossing guard, and Haggerty works at a fast-food counter with a teenage boy as her manager. This could go a dozen different way. They could make a life in the desert living on less but discovering more. They could wander the country as the easy riders of the RV set. But instead, they decide they can't live on less. Brooks envies the cars with leather interior that he directs through traffic, and Haggerty hates the fry vat. Finally Brooks, as he puts it, "eats shit" and gets his old job back, agreeing to move to Manhattan to do it.

What's the message here? I'm assuming there is one. I think it's that life is easier with money than without, especially once you've had some. I think it's that if you're restless on the outside and unhappy with your outward circumstances like your job and house and car, then maybe it's because you're restless on the inside. And changing those outward things is just geography. I think that when pride guides your decision making, then you'll end up making bad decisions and wishing you had thought with more humility.

Or maybe the message is as simple as the comic timing and the grousing and the exasperating whining that Albert Brooks has mastered. Lost In America is funny.

8 comments:

dive said...

That's a new one on me, Robyn.
I only know Julie Haggerty from Airplane. I don't think I could watch her in anything else without thinking of the autopilot scene …

Robyn said...

It has a small following. Julie Hagerty (I have been spelling her name with too many Gs) lives somewhere in Ohio. The way she tells it, she lives a normal Ohio life until somebody calls and asks if she wants to do a movie.

Sassy Sundry said...

I haven't seen this one. Will add it to the list.

#1 said...

ahem POST MY STORY. thanks bye.

Gina said...

I like Albert Brooks. I was rooting for him in the one with William Hurt and Holly Hunter. The name of it escapes me at the moment.

Robyn said...

Gina, he was in Broadcast News, and I rooted for him too.

Fake Knudsen said...

This film leaves a bad taste in my mouth, a throughly unlikeable couple that I don't mind being lost.

Robyn said...

Fake Knudson, I'm sorry you aren't a fan. Actually, I guess I'm not really sorry because I don't care all that much--those two can be pretty annoying, but that's part of the appeal. If I had to have dinner with them, I'd probably hate them.