Albert Brooks stepped behind the camera for the first time to bring us a vision of what would ultimately be a portent of an entire genre of television to come. And, quite honestly, it could not possibly be funnier. Real Life aims to present a spoof of exactly that: a camera crew will follow around an ordinary American family for a year, in order to capture reality at its most uncompromising. Of course, the whole film is fictional, but that’s half the joke; if this were really real, the whole situation would probably be just as amazingly ridiculous as it’s portrayed in this film.
Brooks pulls no punches in lampooning the concept of reality; he opens the project to the city of Phoenix by singing an elaborate musical number he, quote, “wrote on the plane ride over”. From there, he walks us through his selection process, through a series of increasingly obnoxious tests under the guise of pseudo-science, before we settle on the selected family: the Yeagers, father Warren, a veterinarian, wife Jeannette, and kids Lisa and Eric. We get a little background on the equipment and setup used for the production, and then we’re off… to nowhere, because the family doesn’t take to being on camera all the time too well, and Brooks takes it upon himself to intervene and to try and inject some liveliness into their lives to make for a better film. This film absolutely mines every ounce of comedic gold from the concept of the absurd. The whole situation, and everything in it, is absurd to the point of hilarity, and this film lampshades itself more than damn near any other film that I’ve ever seen. Just when you think things are approaching a sense of normalcy, in darts one of the cameramen with their absurd and off-putting sci-fi camera helmets, and you just can’t help but laugh. It’s even funnier to watch as Brooks, playing a caricature of himself, slowly unhinges as the production continues to grow worse and worse, losing further touch with reality no matter how much the people around him try and lay it all out for him to understand.
My god, was this film hilarious. I’m pretty sure I openly and honestly laughed more times than any other list film I’ve seen, and there aren’t too many pure comedies left on the list for me to see. Brooks absolutely nails this one. I really can’t think of anything else to say, other than to just see this, and indeed, perhaps go out of your way to track down a copy. This will be one of the most deadpan, sly, sardonic, and all-out funniest films you’ll see; I can damn near guarantee it. I may even try and track down a copy for me to own; I just loved this from start to finish, and I seriously, seriously hope you do too.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10