May 11th, 2009

REAL LIFE (1979) ***

Long before anyone coined the phrase “Reality TV”, Albert Brooks was already sending up the genre with this consistently amusing comedy.  Brooks stars as an exaggerated version of himself who decides to film an American family for a year and see what happens.  At first the couple (Charles Grodin and Frances Lee McCain) welcomes the documentary crew into their home with open arms but eventually the family starts to fall apart.  Brooks becomes dissatisfied with the family’s deeply depressed manner and decides to give them a real Hollywood ending by burning their house down!

 

I’m a big Albert Brooks fan and abhor reality television so this comedy was right up my alley.  Although the film isn’t as scathing as I would’ve liked, I did enjoy seeing Brooks tweaking his familiar persona to that of a megalomaniacal director.  Grodin, who does a slow burn like nobody in the business, is perfectly cast and the flick is a good showcase for his comedic skills.  

 

Brooks gets a lot of mileage out of the cumbersome cameramen (they look like they’re wearing diving helmets) and the conference calls between him and the studio are pretty funny as well.  I do wish that Brooks had made things a little less “safe” (although there is one funny scene in a gynecologist office), but I can’t complain too much.  Overall, Real Life has enough yuks for the buck to make it wholly worthwhile.