Just as The Twelve Chairs is one of Mel Brooks's least-known movies and most deserving of rediscovery, so is Real Life, the first feature film by Albert Brooks (no relation), a buried treasure. An expansion of one of t... more »he short films Brooks created for the inaugural season of Saturday Night Live (and when will someone release those on video?), Real Life takes its cue from An American Family, the landmark 1973 PBS documentary that unflinchingly captured on film the life and gradual dissolution of the wildly dysfunctional Loud family. As a satire of the media's intrusion into our lives, it would make an ideal double-feature with The Truman Show. Brooks stars as himself, a comedian who, he states, would have been a scientist had he "studied harder or been graded more fairly." Though obliviously unqualified, he is spearheading a project that endeavors to capture a year in the life of a typical American family. Charles Grodin stars as put-upon Warren Yeager, the Phoenix, Arizona, veterinarian who watches helplessly as the callous Brooks overwhelms his life. (At one point, Brooks makes an entrance in a clown suit to cheer up the depressed brood.) Frances Lee McCain costars as Grodin's wife, who develops a crush on Brooks. "I'm a shallow fellow," he insincerely dissuades her. This docu-comedy is vintage Brooks, but so dryly deadpan that the uninitiated might not be in on the joke. Among the scenes that are classics in the Brooks canon are his hilariously inappropriate production number that launches the film (he belts out "Something's Gotta Give" to the locals), his cheery dismissal of the unnecessary but union-imposed film crew ("See you at the premiere!"), the revelation that Mrs. Yeager's gynecologist is a notorious "baby broker" previously exposed on 60 Minutes, and the increasingly fractious production meetings in which an old-Hollywood producer (listening in on speaker phone) insists that Brooks cast James Caan as a neighbor. Real Life was cowritten by Monica Johnson, who later collaborated with Brooks on Modern Romance, Lost in America, The Scout, Mother, and Harry Shearer (from another classic mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap), who also appears as Pete the cameraman. --Donald Liebenson« less
"Writer-director-comic actor Albert Brooks has done consistently solid work since this film but it remains his very best. It is a parody, astonishingly enough, of TODAY'S work on tv yet he made this film in 1979! Tv today is parlaying extensive money out of real life situations, whether based on survival or marrying millionaires or some other new trend of the day. These are big reasons why I don't watch tv anymore. If you are unfamiliar with Brooks, who also plays the "auteur" director in the film, you must understand two things about him. One, he always plays obnoxious characters and this is perhaps his most obnoxious ever. Two, he is absolutely merciless on portraying himself as obnoxious. His delivery is straight on and deadpan and totally works. Brooks's character does not have an iota of real self awareness and this too is typical of the roles he creates for himself in all of his films. This is Brooks's satiric look at a documentary purportedly capturing a year in the life of a typical American family. Charles Grodin, low key as usual, is fantastic as Warren Yeager, the Phoenix, Arizona, veterinarian who is largely passive and ineffectual. He, his wife and two children are easily overwhelmed by the callous Brooks as auteur. There are so many delights to this film that it is hard to name them all so here are just a few. Brooks showing you his choice of camera, a piece of headgear that looks like a robot suit and is all but extinct; Brooks kicking off his film in AZ before an audience of townspeople by breaking into song; Brooks capturing the wife's OB-GYN md on camera and unmasking him as a "60 Minutes" subject; Brooks capturing Yeager (Grodin) malpracticing on a horse patient on camera and Yeager's trying to remove that segment from the film; the production meetings Brooks conducts with his producer sitting in by speaker phone, telling him what's wrong with his movie and why showing real life will not "play" in America and that what he really needs is James Caan (who was hot in 1979). I saw this movie when it first opened at a film festival and have seen it many times in succeeding years. It is always absolutely hilarious and unfortunately prophetic about the "thrills" audiences of the future would want from the media."
Don't miss the Trailer
Mark Fullerton | San Diego | 07/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This has got to be Albert Brooks near his best. A real funny movie. Make sure to get the DVD version of this with the extra interview with brooks (circa 2001)
and don't forget to watch the trailer for this movie also on the DVD. It is hysterically funny and as good as any scene of the movie."
If not another side of Albert Brooks, at least another facet
C. M. Sienko | Chicago, Illinois United States | 12/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a (comparative) young'n, I first experienced Albert Brooks through his movie Defending Your Life, which I adored for years (still do). I checked out each movie after that ("Mother" and "The Muse") with equal glee. Having finally checked out his previous films, I was amazed to find that "Real Life" and especially "Modern Romance" are rather different beasts from the inventive but largely harmless later works. Brooks in his prime is not just a brilliant satirist, but a master of the goulishly uncomfortable situation!Observe the palpable fear given off by Charles Grodin as he tries to dissuade Brooks from showing the footage of him losing one of his patients (he's a veterinarian, so he loses a horse. Big animals are funnier than little ones.) on the table due to his error. Or check out the "put your couch pillow over your face and scream silently" scene in "Modern Romance" where Albert calls a random woman in his roladex, having just broken up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Of course, the uncomfortable nature of the scene is intensified by the fact that Albert has just taken two quaaludes before making the call. Watch him confess his love to a woman who he later admits, "I'm not QUITE sure who she is or where I know her from." Wow! A long way from the clever but unassuming takes on the afterlife and the misadventures of a greek muse in the 20th century. The closest he's come in recent films is "Mother," which I had the mis/fortune of seeing with my own mother! What a relief that my own laughs of recognition were covered up by hers, as she related all of the matronly satire to her own mom! Since everybody in this set of reviews is naming their favorite lines from "Real Life," I'd like to mention two of mine, during the great "testing possible candidates for the project" section of the film. More than just about any humorist I can think of, Brooks' jokes here are so under-the-rader, they're almost invisible."The participants were put through an enormous battery of tests. How many tests? Well, if you were to convert the tests to eggs, there would be enough eggs to feed the entire city of New York for three weeks, based on a two egg per person per week diet. Sound confusing? It was.""Participants were given fifteen tests, such as this one here, Test #85."Albert Brooks is such an underrated comedian and filmmaker, he's probably always going to be seen as a second-tier artist (at best). Admittedly, just about all of his films contain some sort of flawed element or something that just doesn't really work, but my God, the man just keeps on trying SO HARD. Every three to five years, he releases a new and completely entertaining and remarkable film to a society that might vaguely remember him from Saturday Night Live, and who seem to be slightly miffed that he hasn't taken the hint and quietly disappeared. I'm so admirous of him."
I'm not the Indian rubber man..........................
John Candy | Silver Spring, MD | 05/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may be the funniest movie I've ever seen. I have watched it countless times and I never get tired of it. You have to watch this more than once to catch everything. Albert is SO obnoxious and SO egotistical to the point of utter madness. One of the funniest scenes is when Dr. Cleary abandons the project. You've got to see it to believe it. There are so many unforgettable funny lines in this film, too. "I'm not a scientist, I'm a comedian, I can afford the luxury of honesty." SEE THIS MOVIE------STUDY IT------WORSHIP IT"
A Brilliant satire of a genre that didn't exist yet.
Vinnie Bartilucci | Whitehall, PA USA | 03/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film was a satire on a (mostly forgotten) documentary about the Loud family, in which they followed the family through every facet of their lives. Brooks takes that idea and runs with it to the extreme degree. To a degree that it goes past ridiculous, never losing site of funny, mind you, and ends up in prophetic.Everything he says in this film rings true for todays reality TV craze. If you were told this was made this year, you'd believe it.This is very likely Albert (Einstein; no really, look it up) Brooks' best film, as a writer, actor, or anything. It is wholly his vision and style of comedy. The film is played dead straight, from the talk about the laborious selection process, to the technical details about the special cameras worn over the cameraman's head, giving them an eerie Big-Brother look. ("Only five were made, only three worked...we have two of those.")He tracks this family for a year, slowly but surely making their lives an emotional hell, just by being there to watch it. The act of observing an experiment changes the parameters of the experiment, or so the scientific tenet goes. This whole film is an analysis of that theory, as seen through google-eyed glasses.The Truman Show and EdTV beat Television to the punch by about six months, making a film that was just a hair more ridiculous than what TV was doing. The recently released film Series 7-The Contenders tries to parody the genre as it exists now, and does it well. Brooks did this film TWENTY TWO YEARS AGO. Just let that bounce around your head. Then realize that you have very likely never seen the best satire of today's television ever.Vinnie, wearing a clown suit and holding a gas can."