Plot: What’s it about?
Can cameras really capture the essence of a normal American household, even when the family members know the cameras are present? Albert Brooks thinks so and to prove his belief, he and a team of cameramen have invaded a typical home, to document what real life is like for these people. So armed with some unusual head mounted camera systems, Brooks and his crew moves in with Warren Yeager (Charles Grodin) and his kinfolk for a period of one year. In this year, Brooks hopes to document real life and then turn it into a real powerplay for himself, so he can rake in the cash and prestige. Of course, the family members are always aware of the cameras and as such, behave in ways they normally wouldn’t, which in turn throws off the realism Brooks wants. So as time ticks on and the Yeagers begin to unravel under the pressure, Brooks also deals with budget problems and slipping confidence in the project. As both sides struggle with the troubles facing them, it seems as though the realism there is much different than either of them expected.
I’ve been looking forward to the films of Albert Brooks seeing a release on our beloved format, so I was pleased to give the disc for Real Life a spin. I love this film and in the modern realm of constant “reality tv,” this movie is more dead on than ever, which is impressive. I suppose the tidal wave of reality based shows do enhance this film’s lasting power, but even as a stand alone picture, Real Life is hilarious and well worth a look. The approach is terrific and while some spots seem rushed, I think most of the movie works well and come on, you have to love those head mounted cameras, eh? Brooks is very good in front of the camera here, but also directs to solid ends, which is impressive since this was his debut in the director’s chair. The rest of the cast is also very good, but this one belongs to Brooks and his maniacal producer character. I know his films aren’t for all viewers, but if you’re a fan of Brooks or just want to see a good flick, then this is a movie you have to check out.
Although he has only directed about a handful of films, written a few more, and starred in even a few more, Albert Brooks seems to have a wealth of experience in this business. I’ve always liked his work and in truth, I was surprised when I learned how few films he has starred in, as I expected to find more than twenty or so appearances. But still, I am glad he does that many and among them, his performance here is one of my favorites. I think he does his best work on his own movies though, so I was never too surprised. I love his rants, raves, songs, and speeches in this film and if you like his style, then you’ll love his turn here also. Other films directed by and starring Brooks include Defending Your Life, Modern Romance, The Muse, Mother, and Lost In America. The rest of the cast includes Charles Grodin (Heaven Can Wait, Rosemary’s Baby), J.A. Preston (Narrow Margin, Air Force One), Matthew Tobin (American Hot Wax, Dragonfly), and Frances Lee McCain (Back to the Future, Patch Adams).
Video: How does it look?
Real Life is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a good presentation, but it seems as though time has not been very kind to this film. The colors look a little faded here and the contrast is average at best, which means this image looks very dated and that’s not good. The black levels handle the task, but also weaken at times and become too bright, which is not we want here. The flesh tones look good though and the source print looks clean, although some grain is evident at times. In the end, this is a decent looking transfer, but it does show its age at times and is far from perfect.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes the original mono track, which seems to handle the basics well enough. The track is clean and shows little problems, but just remember that it’s mono and don’t expect a dynamic presentation. The music and sound effects are well replicated and full, but like I said, this is mono and as such, the range is limited from the start here. The dialogue is the main element here and it sounds terrific, with crisp vocals and always at a proper volume level. I did hear some harshness at times, but nothing to be worried about in the end. This disc also includes English subtitles, in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc houses an eleven minute interview with Albert Brooks, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.