Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.
Release Date: February 8th, 1985 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Albert Brooks Actors: Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty, Maggie Roswell, Candy Ann Brown, Michael Greene, Garry Marshall
n the radio, Larry King interviews Rex Reed, who speaks about his preferred screening times, the abundance of graphic sex in movies, and his general modus operandi as a film critic. Their conversation plays as major Los Angeles advertising agency creative director David Howard (Albert Brooks) lies awake in bed, wide-eyed and nervous. Alongside wife Linda (Julie Hagerty), a personnel director, they’ve just sold their house. David can’t sleep, riddled with anxiety concerning an expected promotion (to senior vice president), the purchase of a much larger home, and the possibility of a custom Mercedes. Linda is more at ease, though she struggles with David’s neurotic behavior. “Sometimes I wish we were a little more irresponsible.”
The following morning, the apprehension strikes Linda as well, who articulates her frustrations about her unsatisfying, stalled life to her secretary. And David’s day turns colossally sour as his promotion devolves into a transfer to New York, and then dissolves into a rowdy shouting match, a firing, and a security-escorted expulsion. Although he’s incensed at having lost eight years of his life to the firm, he’s also energized; all of a sudden, he’s free. “I was on the road to nowhere!” That night, David suggests that Linda follow suit by quitting her job, and then abandon all their plans for the new house, liquidate their stocks and bonds, buy a motor home (a Winnebago), and cruise around the country, unshackled from the pressures of careers and responsibilities. “This is just like “Easy Rider”!
With Brooks’ mile-a-minute dialogue and the casual, natural way in which the leading couple interacts, there’s a pleasing realism to the comic scenario – lending a certain credence to the steadily escalating silliness of their misadventures. In an alternately mirthful and melancholy manner, the Howards’ plans for romance and intoxicating, reckless abandon fall apart, forcing them to sacrifice carefree exploration for depressed desperation. Yet no matter how much their dream implodes, Brooks and Hagerty are delightful to watch, buoyed by an insuppressible optimism and a playful soundtrack, especially during moments of outrageous mistakes and livid outbursts.
Even when sizable blunders burst into unimaginable proportions, it’s difficult to be mad at these personas; they’re funny when they bicker and charming when they reconnect. In an epic road trip (something akin to National Lampoon’s “Vacation,” and serving as a snapshot of small-town America in the ’80s), through thick and thin, the Howards recognize that, ultimately, a back-up plan or a nest egg or resources of any kind aren’t necessary when they have true love. What could have been an exercise in crushing tragedy and hopelessness instead becomes a curiously lighthearted, agreeable, exceedingly absurd commentary on expectations, limitations, opportunities, flexibility, and the rat race, fueled by movie references, whimsical perceptions, and – finally – the realization that success isn’t defined by sticking to an airtight plan or by the relentless pursuit of an American Dream.
– Mike Massie