Sometimes we all need to get lost in order to find our way. Such is the tale of two characters for the 1985 Warner Bros.’ movie “Lost in America,” which was partially filmed at Hoover Dam.
The movie stars actors Albert Brooks (“Taxi Driver,” “Finding Nemo”) and Julie Hagerty (“Airplane!,” “What About Bob?”) as Mr. and Mrs. Howard. The snooty pair live in Los Angeles with their designer clothes and larger-than-they-can-afford home.
The movie has a simple plot. Mr. Howard sets himself up for a promotion and a transfer to the New York office for the advertising agency firm he works for. Like life, what is planned sometimes falls through. A curveball is thrown at the uppity couple when the promotion Mr. Howard is up for is awarded to someone else. Angry, devastated and feeling confined and empty — even when surrounded by all of his beautiful material things — the couple decides to sell it all and find a new life somewhere else.
The couple’s new life adventure takes them from the glitzy L.A. lifestyle they can’t seem to stand any longer to life on the edge of survival.
At first, the couple finds themselves hitting the road in a Winnebago, trying to embrace seeing the country while leaving all of their cares behind.
Like any good movie, the twist arrives as soon as the Winnebago RV crosses the California-Nevada border. The liquidated assets from selling everything they own in Los Angeles are put on black at a Las Vegas roulette table and the couple loses everything in the blink of an eye. Hoover Dam stands tall in the background of a pivotal argument scene about how to move forward financially and emotionally.
“Lost in America” is my Throwback Thursday recommendation today not only because it was filmed in our backyard, but because it shows how quickly life can change and how the choice to take an adventure doesn’t always mean the outcome you desire is what will happen. After all, adventure is defined as “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.”
I spent a lot of time in Hollywood, and I’ve had plenty of adventures there among the stars. Some of my adventures I’m proud of and some — like Mr. and Mrs. Howard — I’m not so proud of. I feel screenwriter Monica Johnson, who won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay 1985 award for “Lost in America,” and I share a lot when it comes to embracing, sometimes even regretting, our Hollywood adventures, which is why I can’t help but think she took a lot away from her own experiences when writing the movie.
On a side note, Johnson also worked on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Laverne &Shirley” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” as one of the more prominent female writers in the business. She even had a strong partnership with Marilyn Suzanne Miller, who happened to be an original writer for “Saturday Night Live.”
“Lost in America” may be cheesy with all of its 1980s references and costumes, but it offers a good story about what happens to people when they have had enough of where they are or who they are. We all face changes in life. We plan for things to work out and then, sometimes, a curveball heads our way and takes us away from those plans. We even self-create adventures without often thinking of the hazardous part of the experience as a viable concern, which is why I guess, in the end, it is what we take away from the times we get lost that help us discover who we really are.
Tanya Vece is an entertainment and music writer who resides and volunteers in Boulder City. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @hollywoodwriter.