I fought the rat race and the rat race won.
No one portrays and skewers really intelligent morons the way Albert Brooks does. Here he plays a successful advertising executive who thinks that he is finally going to get the big promotion that his entire adult life has been devoted to and winds up instead quitting his job about as ugly as anyone in the history of organized labor. It’s an understandable mistake. For some reason well paid people eventually decide that they aren’t being paid nearly enough money by people who don’t respect them. They eventually quit their jobs and either wind up starting the Starbucks chain or begging for quarters out front of the one in their neighborhood. Eventually the guys begging for quarters go insane trying to figure out why no one else in the world wants to play them anything near what they were making in their previous life.
So Brooks’ David Howard quits his job and as men are wont to do quickly convinces his wife (Julie Hagerty the most wooden actress in the history of cinema) to quit hers too. They liquidate their entire net worth into a nest egg and decide to roam the country like their heroes in Easy Rider. If you want to see the difference between the ’60s and the ’80s all you have to do is contrast your memories of Fonda and Hopper with the sight of Brooks and Hagerty driving down the interstate to the strains of Born to Be Wild in the brand new camper they purchase to better enjoy the soul of America.
Oddly enough “Lost in America” has a lot of similarities to everybody’s favorite TV show Green Acres. They are both about men who have dropped out of society and their inability to convince all the insane people in their world about the usefulness of common sense and rationality in an insane world. This of course leaves both of them as by far the most frustrated and ill equipped to successfully get through life.
“Lost in America” has four brilliantly funny scenes where Brooks desperately tries to express himself: ^ 1) Brooks tries to convince his employers that they will miss him any longer than it takes for him to walk out the door. ^ 2) Brooks tries to convince semi-amused Casino manager Garry Marshall that the Casino should reimburse him after his wife loses all their money in Vegas. ^ 3) Brooks tries to be louder than the Hoover Dam as he lets loose an entire life’s worth of frustration at Hagerty and the world after said money has been lost. ^ 4) Brooks tries to convince the one man unemployment bureau of the out in the middle of no where small town where his camper runs out of gas that he is still worthy of $100,000 a year.
My biggest problem with Lost in America is that it sort of cheats its premise in favor of admittedly a great deal of hearty laughs. By losing all of their money two days into their quest to live America, Brooks makes it impossible to see what would have actually happened if the poor guy had actually had a chance to live out his dream and truly drop out from the rigors of the machine. Then again Green Acres already had that area covered. I can’t wait to see Brooks climb that telephone pole and watch TV with the new Arnold Ziffle when he finally gets around to making the old warhorse into the epic statement it always deserved to be. That alone would make it better than ninety percent of Hollywood’s recent recreations of the small screen.