GRAND CANYON —–“The point is there’s a gulf in this country; an ever-widening abyss between the people who have stuff, and the people who don’t have shit. It’s like this big hole in the ground, as big as the fucking Grand Canyon, and what’s come pouring out is an eruption of rage, and the rage creates violence, and the violence is real, Mack. Nothing’s gonna make it go away, until someone changes something, which is not going to happen.”
Lawrence Kasdan and his wife Meg were Oscar-nominated for their screenplay of this 1991 drama, which he directed. Like his The Big Chill, it’s an ensemble piece reflecting on roles and attitudes in contemporary society. But eight years down the drain the rueful humor and are-we-losing-it? nostalgia of the 1983 comedy-drama has given way to darker lament and indictment, a widespread zeitgeist fear that we-Have-lost-it. *
With slices of L.A. life standing in for the steadily fracturing country at large, random events change the lives of a number people, some connected by family, some by friendship or work, others by happenstance. How do you safely get off a merry-go-round that seems to be out of control?
DEE: “Jane, do you ever feel like you are just this far from being completely hysterical twenty four hours a day?” JANE: “Half the people I know feel that way. The lucky ones feel that way. The rest of the people ARE hysterical twenty four hours a day.”
Fluid direction, keen writing and a first-rate cast gift this powerful and affecting drama, which, like everyday life, has grace moments of humor to make the pain—private or shared—bearable enough to hopefully deal with. Since it wasn’t as heavy on ‘happy’ as a look at the cast would indicate, and/or knowing it came from the same guy who made The Big Chill, it didn’t do as well; though reviews were positive, box-office was moderate, placing 42nd for ’91 (Year Two of Bush I), taking in $33,243,000, with another $7,791,000 abroad. With the horrible state of things three decades on, the film not only holds poignant relevance as a recent period piece, but as one tragically prescient. Hold on, because it’s going to be a more than bumpy night—from here on out.
Excellent work from Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Mary McDonnell, Steve Martin, Mary-Louise Parker and Alfre Woodard. Superb music score is by James Newton Howard, concluding with a magnificent piece in the manner of Copland.
“Vanessa, why is it that when someone’s successful in one field, they think they know about everything?”
With Jeremy Sisto, Tina Lifford, Patrick Malone, Shaun Baker, Sarah Trigger, Todd Allen. Randle Mell, ‘the Alley Baron’, who McDonnell jogs past, is her real-life husband. 137 minutes.
* Kasdan: ” We wrote that story very much out of our own lives and our feelings about the city and the country and race relations, about the haves and have-nots, about the possibility of joy and of pain no matter what economic situation you’re in. We were trying to deal with all these things that you wake up with every day in Los Angeles or America. How do you have positive, hopeful, what I call humanist contact with the other people in your world, whether you know them or not?”