Lost In America

Directed by Albert Brooks

Papa Villone asserts that "If you can manage to find more than four memorable quotes in a film, it’s a classic of some sort." Well, Albert Brooks’ 1985 film Lost In America is so stocked with great quotes that it’s off Papa’s meter:

"MERCEDES leather? What’s MERCEDES leather?"

"I’ve seen the future and it’s a bald man from New York!"

"I like Wayne Newton. Are you saying I’M a schmuck?"

"You can’t even SAY the word ‘egg’ any more. When you go into the woods you see a bird’s round stick. For breakfast you have THING’S with ham."

"I’m losing my right eye." "What?" "I’m losing my right eye." "What?"

"An adult should NOT get a bloody nose."

This film is hysterical. I watched it over at Casey’s house for the first time a few days ago. Casey said he’d already seen it five or six times and now I know why. Director, writer and star Albert Brooks has created the perfect yuppie comedy. An advertising executive in his thirties who is on the verge of buying a new house for he and his wife, which he’s hoping to coincide with his long-awaited promotion to vice president, is called into his bosses office and learns that not only isn’t he getting the promotion, all he’s getting is a lateral transfer (from their LA office to their New York offices). In probably the finest job- quitting scene in the history of film, Brooks explodes in the most acerbic, articulate way everybody has always dreamed of when realizing all their years of hard work mean nothing.

He leaves his job, talks his wife (Julie Haggerty) into quitting hers, and they decide to "find themselves" on the open road "just like Easy Rider." They sell EVERYTHING, buy a Winnebago and STILL have about 150,000 dollars to their name and head to Vegas. Brooks qualifies himself every time he has to deal with someone: "Hi, uh, my wife and I have dropped out of society, and..." They have enough money, he conservatively estimates, to stay on the road for the rest of their lives. That’s before she loses their nest egg at the roulette table. Brooks the adman tries to talk the casino owner (Garry Marshall) into giving back the money. It doesn’t work, but Brooks keeps pushing, trying to sell the casino on improving its image. ("I’m a high-paid advertising consultant. These are professional opinions you’re getting.") There are other great scenes, as the desperate couple tries to find work to support themselves: An interview with an unemployment counselor, who listens, baffled, to Brooks explaining why he left a $100,000-a-year job because he couldn’t "find himself." And Brooks’ wife introducing her new boss, a teenage boy.

The funniest aspect of the film, though, is the element of materialistic panic Brooks is able to squeeze out of his character. This is a man who seriously needs to get stoned on a regular basis: He’s a typical A-type, potential heart-attack victim: he makes a lot of money (80K!!), but not enough; who lives in a big house, but is outgrowing it; who drives an expensive car, but not a Mercedes-Benz; who is a top executive, but not a vice president. In short, he is a desperate man, trapped by his own expectations.

See this with your friend from Microsoft who got hired fresh out of high school. When the film’s over, ask him if he’s ever rolled cigars on the naked thighs of brown beauties laying underneath Cassiopeia on the Day of the Dead in the hills of San Miguel de Allende.