As mentioned much earlier, I enjoy romantic comedies. I also enjoy Steve Martin. This is my favorite Steve Martin movie. He plays the protagonist, and the female lead is played by Victoria Tennant (who was Martin’s wife at the time). Sarah Jessica Parker plays the too-young-for-him temporary interest, and there are a host of other actors who often play character parts (Marilu Henner, Richard Grant, Susan Forristal, and Kevin Pollack, to name a few). Be sure to watch for the surprise appearance of Patrick Stewart (well, it surprised me the first time). And see if you recognize Terry Gilliam’s role. 🙂
But the primary character is Los Angeles. I left L.A. in 1976, but when this movie came out in 1991 it was so much like the L.A. I knew that I could smell the smog while watching it. It’s got everything: the traffic, everyone’s favorite shortcuts, the incestuous fascination with the entertainment industry, the shopping, the little birds chattering in the trees, the pretentious attitudes, the art galleries and museums, the earthquakes, and it is always 72 degrees. Martin plays a wacky weatherman, Harris K. Telemacher, and in one scene he is interviewing an Angelino about the record-breaking cold spell of 58 degrees, which turned the weekend into a real “weenie shrinker.”
Did I mention Steve Martin wrote the screenplay? He has witty word play and broad humor all through the movie. It begins with him in an exercise park, quoting Shakespeare about how wonderful L.A. is. In the background you see a woman collapsing from the rowing machine she has been using; as the paramedics lift her onto a gurney, some other person in sweats runs to take her place on the machine. Shakespeare shows up a lot in this movie. Such as:
“Sitting there at that moment, I thought of something else Shakespeare said. He said, ‘Hey — life is pretty stupid, with lots of hub-bub to keep you busy, but not really amounting to much.’ Of course, I’m paraphrasing: ‘Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'” (Did you know Shakespeare is buried in an L.A. cemetery? He lived there from 1612 to 1614, while he wrote “Hamlet, the Revenge: Part 8.”) (I’m kidding.) There is also a great scene in the cemetery where they co-opt part of the graveyard scene from Hamlet.
I remember seeing an interview with Martin about why he wrote “L.A. Story.” Everyone talks about how Los Angeles lacks culture, or is an irrigated desert, or whatever, but he wanted to show how it can also be a magical place, if you look at it with the right eyes. There are deer eating the clipped grass in the Hollywood Hills, and hidden walkways with stone lions, and freeway signposts that truly care about you. 🙂 (I forgot to mention The Freeway Sign, another character.) There is a lot of music by Enya in the soundtrack, and that adds to the magic. Oh — and it begins with a slip of New Moon and ends with a Full Moon, as the story waxes to . . . (Nope. Don’t want to spoil it for you.)
The movie is rated PG-13 (probably because of sexual humor) and runs 98 minutes. I give it a 4.5. And if anyone can explain the scene to me where Martin asks, “What’s that clanging sound?” and Grant answers, “It’s a nuisance. It’s my damn testicles,” please do so in the comments or send me an email? 🙂 Thanks!