Whether you’re approaching a mid-life crisis, living through one or have come out the other side unscathed, you’ll know what hitting the midpoint of your existence looks like. It’s something we love to dramatise; especially in film.
In Lost in Translation, Bill Murray’s ageing character falls for a much younger Scarlett Johansson in a Tokyo Hotel, despite having a loving family back home. In American Beauty, Kevin Spacey’s suburban family man starts smoking weed and turns his back on responsibility just to fight off the mundane.
In film and in reality, a mid-life crisis means questioning what you’re doing with your life. For Emmy Award-winning television writer and once stand up comic, Lou DiMaggio, it’s questioning why he ever stepped off stage.
Where Have You Gone, Lou DiMaggio? is as much a film about the industry he made his career from, as it is his personal comeback story.
Throughout, there are interviews with Lou and some of his most personal friends. Who, by the way, are all famous comics too. Lou and the likes of Larry David, Dennis Miller and Chris Rock were a part of the burgeoning comedy circuit born out of the ‘Catch a Rising Star’ club in New York in the 1980s.
Affectionately known as ‘Catch’, the club was the hottest spot around. Celebrities and politicians would queue around the corner every night to see the venue’s MCs. When Lou returns to where Catch once was, he sighs “You can never go home again” at where the entrance used to be.
It’s a scene that exemplifies the tone of the whole film. Footage from Lou’s heyday show a fresh faced, cocky young man delivering skit after skit to an audience akin to putty in his hands. Footage of him today, sees him digging around in his old paraphernalia tin, looking tired and nostalgic.
It never feels like making it back into stand up is enough for Lou. If it were, would there have been a film about it? He says it’s all about making sure he actually does it. His theory is that if you make a film about it, you really ought to do it.
The film closes with a few truisms about doing the things you want to do, never being too old and wondering why you stopped doing what you loved. I suppose that without them, this could just be a film by a comic, with comics and for comics. Maybe it would’ve been better that way.
It is entertaining, and at the least, it’s an enjoyable story about America’s hottest comedy club.