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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Lost in America (Blu-ray)
Lost in America (Blu-ray)
Criterion // R // July 25, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted July 20, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I have a weird circuitous route when it comes to the work of Albert Brooks. I saw Lost in America as a kid and wasn't much of a fan. Then as I grew older and saw Defending Your Life and Broadcast News I liked his work much more, and gave me the excuse to revisit the early stuff I had a poor first impression of. The joys of film, right?

Brooks wrote, directed and starred in the film as David Howard, an associate in a marketing firm about to take on additional roles with an expected promotion. He decides to quit (well, get fired) instead, and he takes his wife Linda (Julie Hagerty, Airplane!) with him. They're fairly well off so they make the decision to drop out of society (you know, just like how they did in Easy Rider) and live their lives in a Winnebago which they soon learn is tougher than they expected.

So apparently the raves about the film at the time were how it was "…a skewering of Reagan-era values…" as the back of the case says, but I think a sneaky part of the brilliance of Lost in America is that it's less about that label, and shows more of a timeless nature in its storytelling by engaging in the romantic abstract side from the jump. It's not about using hippie bikers with cocaine as the inspiration, it's about the act of the dropping out in and of itself that makes it identifiable. You know why? Because society is bullshit, or general sentiment to that effect. It's also tough to drop out and stay dropped out as the film goes on to show, most notably in the casino scene which if you haven't seen, I won't spoil, because it ruins note perfect work by Brooks, Hagerty and Garry Marshall (yes THAT one) in various roles.

Moreover, the chemistry between Brooks and Hagerty is wonderful and their performances are a joy. Brooks is the dynamo of the two with things like his early movie bridge burning and the beloved "nest egg" rant, and Hagerty quietly matches his stride. She's got her casino moments but in a few ways Linda's devotion and loyalty to David includes a subtle strength in this comedy that may be underappreciated. She sees how dropping out will end long before David does and it makes a third act decision both funny and a little smart in retrospect. David's conflict is in the act and the reality of it and Brooks does a wonderful job with it

What makes Lost in America enjoyable to me now is different than what I thought about it at the time. The movie poster of the couple with their heads in the sand makes for an even slyer nod to the desire of the material. David and Linda's desire for direction goes beyond the tacky little compass on the dashboard of the behemoth winny, and watching them explore this, set to Brooks' genius, makes for a pleasant and sometimes excruciating comic journey. It feels good to get back to the early days of Albert Brooks now that I'm a grown-up.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

Brooks supervised the 2K transfer of the film onto Blu-ray and the AVC encode that shows off this 1.85:1 widescreen beauty looks nice. The Vegas lights look nice, the yellow in Brooks sunglasses has an accurate reflective glare to them, and the many shots of them driving through the country look natural while possessing oodles of film grain. Haloing and artifacts are fairly minimal and the film looks natural without blocking or saturation problems.

The Sound:

PCM mono sound which works for this film, even as "Born to Be Wild" blares in the opening moments of the film. Dialogue is consistent and things like sound effects of a punch or a revving car sound natural and in the front of the soundstage. The film isn't given much to do dynamically, the Hoover Dam sequence is quiet, the Steppenwolf song at the beginning, and Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" at the end burst into life when called upon. Generally however, this is a dialogue-driven road comedy with nothing in terms of environmental or immersive sound because of its source. It sounds as clear as can be.

Extras:

There is a decent amount of stuff here but nothing mind-blowing. Broosk and Robert Weide have a discussion (30:05) which looks at Brooks' background, his growing up in a family of comedians, and his inspiration to write this film. He talks about the writing relationship with Johnson, how he worked as a director, and his original idea of casting Bill Murray(!) as the lead. It's a nice segment, but the rest of the supplements trend downward a little. Hagerty has an interview (11:14) where she talks about working with Brooks and how she landed the role, and thoughts on some of the scenes in it. Another conversation with Herb Nanas (11:51), who plays the Arizona Mercedes driver, is fine (Nanas has produced many Brooks projects). Another Brooks, James L., talks about what makes Albert funny and what he liked about the film (14:33). The trailer (2:39) completes the package.

Final Thoughts:

Sure, I enjoy and will readily re-watch the more known works of Albert Brooks as a rule of thumb. But there are some layers past the jokes and great lines in Lost in America that befit some of the reasons why Criterion chose to throw its label onto a newly remastered version of the film. Technically it does justice to the film, but the extras are a notable disappointment for me. Nevertheless, experience it again or for the lucky ones, the first time, now that it's on Blu-ray.

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