Lost in America Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
It’s one of the great romantic American concepts: to quit your lousy job, fill up the gas tank and hit the open road, with nothing on the agenda but to find yourself and a better existence. It’s also bound to not go your way.
David and Linda Howard have just sold their house, banking on David’s promised promotion. The next day, mere hours after practicing his acceptance speech (in which he invites his boss over to barbecue at their new house), advertising exec David (Albert Brooks, two years before earning his first and, to date, only Oscar nomination, for BROADCAST NEWS) is denied the position. After telling off his boss (Michael Greene, the ABC western THE DAKOTAS) and getting fired, David convinces Linda (Julie Hagerty, Woody Allen’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY and both AIRPLANE! movies) to quit her job.
With their nest egg in hand and high hopes on their side, David and Linda purchase a Winnebago to set out for their grand adventure. Their first stop is Las Vegas, where they plan to renew their vows. It’s on that leg that Linda loses every dollar the Howards had (well, all but $802), pushing them into the sort of spiral they hadn’t included in their fantasies.
And like that, it’s apparent that David and Linda are designed more for a house than a motorhome. Their attempts at a new life are terribly misguided, much to the viewer’s frequent delight. One of the funniest moments comes when David, at the wheel of the RV, gives a thumbs-up to a motorcyclist in the next lane, who fires back with a middle finger. Here is a man introducing himself to a foreign world, only to be turned away almost exactly how he told his former boss off back in L.A.
Yet, as funny LOST IN AMERICA is, it’s also something of a tragedy. The Howards so badly want to start over and live a life of freedom and whim. But they can’t and never will, and the viewer is sure that Linda’s gambling isn’t the only reason for this–something was bound to go wrong. One can easily hear David despairingly say, not all that unlike Peter Fonda in EASY RIDER–a film openly referenced herein–“We blew it.”
For the short 91-minute runtime, LOST IN AMERICA takes a third of it to hit the road and so too long to highlight its themes. Some of this time could have been shifted to the end, which comes suddenly and unsatisfyingly. (The first act feels extended so Brooks could expand on some of his material.) But once the foundation is laid, LOST IN AMERICA reveals itself as a film brimming with wit and attentiveness, with boisterous bouts of optimism, cynicism and frustration.
Brooks has a keen eye and ear, and presents the characters, concepts and scenarios in an amusing and fairly intelligent tone. It is a standout in both the career of Brooks and 1980s comedy.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “Supervised by director Albert Brooks, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from a new 35 mm interpositive made from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management.”
LOST IN AMERICA looks quite nice, with fine details, accurate color and an overall healthy image.
Audio: English Mono. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.”
Dialogue is clean, while music comes through nicely.
Albert Brooks and Robert Weide (30:05): Brooks and filmmaker Weide discuss the former’s career and style, with emphasis on LOST IN AMERICA.
Julie Hagerty (11:14): Actress Hagerty reflects on LOST IN AMERICA.
Herb Nanas (11:51): Manager Nanas discusses his relationship with Brooks.
James L. Brooks (14:33): The iconic producer/director/etc. shares his thoughts on comedy and Albert Brooks, who he calls “a unique talent.”
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by critic Scott Tobias.