Plot: David Howard (Albert Brooks) is tired of being stuck within his profession. He can’t seem to move up the corporate ladder no matter how much he tries, so when he is passed over once to often, he hatches a plan to change his life forever. He is a success in terms of cash and lifestyle, but he longs for something new and adventurous, so he takes his plan to his wife, Linda (Julie Hagerty) for approval. He then persuades her into one heck of a scheme, where the two quit their jobs, sell all that they own, purchase a massive Winnebago, and travel across the nation. As David sees it, it will be just like Easy Rider, a trek to learn about themselves and see the nation’s various sights, all without the burdens most people have. So the two do all of that and soon enough, they’re off on the open road, with their nest egg in tow and looking for some adventures. But their plans don’t go as expected and down the road a piece, the two realize they’ve lost it all and now have to try to piece their lives back together, from the ground up.
Entertainment Value: Often called the yuppie version of Easy Rider, Lost in America is a true comedy classic and a movie that never fails to entertain, with razor sharp dialogue and unforgettable set pieces. The movie is rooted in 80s culture, so it is a little dated, but the general themes are universal and as such, even those with little knowledge of the decade should have fun here. The promise of a fresh start and a new roll of the dice is a concept that likely appeals to most people, so Lost in America plays on themes that are relevant regardless of the time period. I love how dark and subtle the humor can be in this one, especially given that the movie burns some of the social commentary to the ground before the picture ends. I know some dislike the direction the movie takes toward the finale, but to me, it was inevitable and makes the entire movie more grounded and humorous. I’m sure some would prefer a more upbeat kind of flow, but I appreciate the movie’s bold choices and while it is a little depressing, so is real life for a lot of folks. I think Lost in America is insightful and one of the funniest movies ever made, so it is highly recommended.
Albert Brooks serves as writer, director, and lead performer here, turning in his usual strong effort on all fronts. Brooks has a unique sense of humor that has a sense of dark realism, which of course isn’t what some viewers want from a comedy, but I think it works well in most of his projects. His performance in Lost in America is excellent, to the point that I can’t see anyone else in the role, as he just nails the material and has just the right kind of presence. I love the argument scenes, as Brooks comes to life in them and he shows some sparks of aggression that might surprise some. I would put this with his absolute best performances, which is a real compliment to his work here, given his resume. Julie Hagerty is terrific as the harried, stressed out wife and she also shines in the arguments. She and Brooks have good chemistry in their dysfunction, which is crucial to those scenes. I think her best moments here at the casino, when she just lets herself go for broke, but her overall performance is fantastic. The cast also includes Garry Marshall, Donald Gibb, and Maggie Roswell.