Follow TV Tropes


Film / Lost in America

Go To

"Say it! Say it! Say 'I lost the nest egg'. Go on, say it!"

Lost in America is a satirical 1985 comedy directed and co-written by Albert Brooks, who also stars along with Julie Hagerty.

David Howard (Brooks) is a Los Angeles advertising executive counting on a big promotion. He does get a promotion of sorts — he's being sent to New York City — but because it's not the one he's expecting, he flies into a rage and quits on the spot. He then convinces his wife Linda (Hagerty) to quit her job as well, so they can hit the road in their Winnebago, and live their lives like the characters from Easy Rider. Hilarity Ensues.


Tropes used in this film:

  • American Title: Symbolic of two aging boomers, who, gripped in a mid-life crisis, make a serious mistake.
  • The Cameo: James L. Brooks as a guest at David and Linda's going-away party.
  • Deconstruction: The film could be seen as a deconstruction of road trip and journey of discovery films. David gets angry when he learns that instead of a promotion he's getting transferred to New York, which would probably have been a great opportunity for him and was actually done because of how well respected he is for his skill set but since it's not what he was expecting or what he wants he gets mad, throws a tantrum at his boss and prospective work partner, gets fired and then pressures his wife Linda into quitting her job, which she wasn't exactly crazy about either, and coming with him on his crazy half baked scheme to live under the radar in a motor home living off of just enough money by excluding some life's necessities. Ultimately David discovers, after many mishaps and enduring the humiliation of being reduced to a cross walk guard where he is mocked and ridiculed by spoiled, stupid, foul mouthed children, that he was really better off where he was, so he goes to New York and manages to get his job back with a pay cut - but better medical.
  • Advertisement:
  • Epic Fail: The Safford, Arizona employment agency man calls David out for the stupidity of his quitting his well paying if boring job by laughing at him and mocking him before finally giving him the crossing guard job. Ultimately David realizes his whole scheme was a mistake and goes to New York to get his job back.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Having less than $800 to your name is hard times, so David has to take a job as a crossing guard in a small Arizona town. It works out horribly.
  • Fish out of Water: David and Lisa are comically out of place as urban yuppies trying to make a go of it in small-town Arizona. The man at the employment office cackles with laughter after David tells him that David quit a job where he made $100,000 a year.
  • Flipping the Bird: The futility of David and Linda seeking to escape their yuppie lifestyle is first demonstrated when David, driving the Winnebago down the highway, honks and gives a thumbs-up to a biker. The biker gives him the finger.
  • From New York to Nowhere: David and Linda leave Los Angeles for the open road, only to lose all their money gambling in Las Vegas and have to take crappy jobs in a small town. Subverted in that in the end they leave the town as fast as they can and move back to the big city in New York.
  • The Gambling Addict: Unbeknownst to David, Linda is one of these.
  • Going to See the Elephant: David and Linda quit their jobs in order to "discover America". They do so by traveling around in a Winnebago on the back roads, looking for new things to see and do.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The opening credits play over a five-minute unbroken shot that slowly takes the viewer around the boxed-up possessions in the Howard home, before finally finding David and Linda in bed.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: David overreacts when he doesn't get a promotion, flipping out and quitting his job.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After Linda loses all of their money gambling, David goes to the casino manager and asks them, as a bold advertising ploy, to give them their money back. The casino manager's reaction is priceless.
  • Road Trip Plot: A middle-aged married couple decides to leave the rat race behind and go wandering around America in an RV. It turns out badly.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Easy Rider, of course.
    • Also, the number Linda keeps betting (to no avail) on the roulette wheel is 22, the winning number in the roulette scene in Casablanca.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A yuppie couple decides to leave the world of office wage slavery behind and live a life of freedom on the open road. It turns out to be a fiasco that leaves them in abject poverty, before David eventually goes begging for his old job back.
  • Travel Montage: The film ends with a montage of David and Linda's road trip to New York, which includes a bridge over the Mississippi River, the Capitol, and the Gaffney Peach, which looks like a butt.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: David is a shallow yuppie who blows up at work when he doesn't get a promotion and flushes his career down the toilet. Linda for her part gambles away their entire nest egg that they got from liquidating their assets. Their own foolish choices leave them in poverty.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: The plan to live off the grid goes awry when Linda blows $100,000 in a single night at roulette.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: David got his job back with a 31% pay cut but better dental, Linda got a job at Bloomingdale's, and she's pregnant with their first child.