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Albert Brooks
USA, 1979

Real Life, Albert Brooksís absurd take on American Family-style pre-reality TV, includes one of the funniest moments of any film Iíve watched this year. Brooks, playing himself as an obnoxious, narcissistic documentary filmmaker, hopes to create a cinematic record of an average family, the Yeagers. Unsurprisingly, everything goes wrong, culminating in a borderline surrealist ending involving a clown suit, flames, and a dramatic score. Earlier in the film, in what Brooks feels is a genius strategy for cheering up the increasingly agitated Yeagers, he comes to their home in full clown regalia (complete with a bunny puppet), hoping to amuse their two children. The children arenít there, and Brooks is left to awkwardly contend with the parents, Warren and Jeannette. He starts talking to them. They arenít amused. Then, with no real explanation, Brooks rests his bunny puppet on Warrenís knee. This is such a ridiculous way of attempting to relate to his subject, and Brooks-onscreen (not to be confused with Brooks-the-director, though the lines are, of course, meant to be blurred) seems to be so weirdly earnest and convinced that he is doing good, that we cannot help but laugh. That bunny on the knee is key to Real Lifeís humor, a humor that is sometimes written off as dated, but which merits a second look (as evidenced by its recent Movie of the Week status on The Dissolve). The bunny is silly and the clown suit represents broad, unsophisticated humor, but the gesture to Warren is a subtle moment. Brooks-onscreen is likely too full of himself to recognize the comedy of the moment, but Brooks-the-director certainly isnít, and neither are we.