Tagline: Something funny is happening in L.A.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Harris K. Telemacher
Richard E. Grant
Sarah Jessica Parker
Mr. Perdue, Maitre D' at L'Idiot
Bob, News Anchor
Gail, News Anchor
Eddie De Harp
Maitre D' at Brunch
Rap Waiter at L'Idiot
L.A. Story came out in 1991. I have been raving about it since 1992. I can't really explain why; even tonight, when someone asked us what it was about, my initiated friends and I drew a blank and said, "Let's just watch the tape." It's easier that way. But I may be able to flesh out the available information on the film:
The movie opens with a slow-motion montage set to "La Mer": a street of people in bathrobes bounding across their front lawns, in unison, to pick up the morning paper, as sprinklers churn away, reflecting the light; a perfect, symmetrical crash at a four-way stop. Then a closeup of Steve Martin's eyes. In voiceover, he tells us, "My name is Harris K. Telemacher. I live in Los Angeles, and I've had seven heart attacks - all of them imagined. What I mean to say is that I was deeply unhappy, but I didn't know it because I was too busy being happy all the time."
And yes, it goes on like this. He quotes Shakespeare. He chats up a gallows-humor, cockney-accented gravedigger (played by one Rick Moranis). As the Wacky Weatherman for a local TV news station, he drops the little icons of the sun and says, "There were going to be some clouds in Beverly Hills today, but the council voted against it so it's going to be sunny." Shortly thereafter, he's fired for being Too Egghead and Not Wacky Enough. This is Steve Martin at his best: satirical and silly at the same time; absurd as in genuinely funny, not as in highfalutin philosophical concept.
Enter Victoria Tennant, who was at the time Steve Martin's wife. As Sara McDowel, she is a stranger in a strange land: a journalist, but also an eccentric Brit, she appears at a large Hollywood lunch and says, of her recent international flight, "I'm a litle tired but it's nothing some sleep and a good fuck wouldn't cure." The entire table falls silent. Harris, of course, is charmed. An earthquake ensues.
The tone of the film to this point is simulatenously lyric and satiric; at this point, it starts going back and forth. Not that at this point we forsake the wisecracks in favor of romantic tripe; it's just that in between wisecracks, some serious metaphysical shit goes down: I'm talking about freeway signs that flash predictions like, "The weather will change your life twice." I'm talking about a reversal in the polarity of the earth. I'm talking about "Doo Wah Diddy" being the key to true love. It's heady stuff: the Enya-laden soundtrack only underlines that. As sugar-laden and romantic as this movie is at some points, it never stops being beautifully ridiculous: there's some cute, romantic-comedy banter, but fortunately, not a whole lot; there's a character who spells her name "SanDeE*"; there's Steve Martin roller skating in an art museum. But it nonetheless climaxes with the line, "A kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true."
Of course, the shift in tone is problematic at times - while one appreciates the overall strangeness, there are some scenes that are so strange (if hysterically funny) as to not quite fit with the rest of the movie. And some people may take issue with the fact that after twenty minutes of brilliant satire, the damn thing turns into a love story. But you know what? Those people need to get laid. What we've got here is vintage Steve Martin, and it's gorgeous enough to be forgiven whatever sins it may have committed. So rent the damn thing. You won't be sorry.