L.A. STORY was one of a Steve Martin trio from 1991, joining his amusing, big hit remake of Father Of The Bride and Lawrence Kasdan’s excellent, underrated Grand Canyon. The latter, also set in Los Angeles, had humor in it, but was primarily a drama about the social state of American life, using the nation’s favorite urban punching bag as a stand-in for the country at large. This satiric entry, written by its busy 45-year-old star, was 45th at the box-office, with a somewhat disappointing gross of $28,900,000. Unlike the probing ache of Kasdan’s Canyon, Steve’s Story was part-sendup, part-valentine to the title town, done with obvious affection for that sun-baked seaside sprawl of suntans & sunsets, superficiality & success. If you love La-La or hate it, this is a fun way to troll the City of Angels without gunfighting the traffic.
HARRIS: “Ordinarily, I don’t like to be around interesting people because it means I have to be interesting too.” SARA: “Are you saying I’m interesting?” HARRIS: “All I’m saying is that, when I’m around you, I find myself showing off, which is the idiot’s version of being interesting.”
Los Angeles TV weatherman ‘Harris Telemacher’ (Martin) isn’t just frustrated by doing his “zany” schtick at the station. He’s also stymied by a dead-end relationship with ‘Trudi’ (Marilu Henner), his status-driven harpy of a girlfriend. Then he meets ‘Sara’ (Victoria Tennant), a journalist from London, in town to reconcile with her husband. Fate intervenes, aided by freeway billboards that flash advice at Harris; he recognizes a kindred spirit in the unaffected visitor, who not only can get his jokes, but is able to volley serve her own.
Martin pokes bright (but not mean) mirth at the obvious L.A. clichés, and adds ample ‘Steve’ physical gags so the less-irony-invested members in the audience won’t get lost in the sands of satire and the sourpuss brigade won’t confuse the spoofing as spite. Not everything works, but much of it does, and, like that California sun, the cast mostly shine.
Tennant, married to Martin at the time, is adequate, but though not a compelling enough comedienne to match her husband’s tempo, leaving the secondary characters room to romp away with the attention, laughs and affection. Though Henner and Richard E. Grant, as Sara’s breezy ex,’Roland Mackey’ (“I’m all hot from running…”) have their share of good moments, the scene-stealing performance comes from Sarah Jessica Parker. Twenty-five, in her 4th movie and breakout role, she’s a delight as ‘SanDe*’, aspiring (and exceptionally fit) ‘spokesmodel’, so stoked with animal energy and sexual brio that she can’t stand still. *
“She’s not so young. She’ll be 27 in four years.”
“Why is it that we don’t always recognize the moment when love begins but we always know when it ends?”
Directed by Mick Jackson, who manages Martin’s marriage of droll observational wit and manic farcical goofing. The undercurrent of need is graced by “Epona”, a lovely number from Enya, and the soundtrack also ensures there’s a good chance that afterwards you’ll be humming, whistling or otherwise letting loose with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”.
Getting in chuckles and snorts: Kevin Pollak, Patrick Stewart, Sam McMurray, Frances Fisher, Larry Miller and Richard Stahl. Cameos come from Rick Moranis, Woody Harrelson, Chevy Chase, Paula Abdul, Martin Lawrence, Iman and George Plimpton. Neatly wrapped in 98 minutes.
* Martin: “There were some women who auditioned who where exactly that L.A. cliché of the blonde. But Sarah Jessica had humor, and she had that bounce,” said Martin. “She really was spectacular in the movie. She was just a delight.”
Parker: “…“it got to the point where Mick Jackson—the director, who I love—would say, ‘And, Sarah, bounce, and action.’ And that’s how we worked. And I would just keep moving around Steve as much as possible and sort of be a moving target, not be able to be captured, you know.”