My growing base of readers for this monthly column (initially my wife and my sister and now includes my mother as well – 50% increase in readership!) has informed me (mostly telepathically) that they do not want this to be a write-up of a political movie this month. So my apologies to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (my highest ranked political film at #8) and to Long Shot (my favorite plucky political comedy that checks in at #577), but we’re going with pure escapism this month – L.A. Story (1991, dir. Mick Jackson). You cannot find anything political about this movie, so it definitely fits.
L.A. Story tells the tale of Harris Telemacher (Steve Martin), who is a meteorologist in Los Angeles stuck in a dead-end job and a dead-end relationship until he meets Sara (Martin’s then wife Victoria Tennant) at a luncheon. Before that moment, he literally writes the phrase “Bored Beyond Belief” on his wall. At that point, things change for him. What follows is a typically quirky Steve Martin story (he wrote the screenplay) that has as many sections of ridiculousness as it has sections of profundity. With a fun mixture of delightful supporting roles from Sarah Jessica Parker (honestly, her best film work in my mind) and Richard E. Grant (basically playing every British guy ever), plus several great cameos from Patrick Stewart, Chevy Chase, Rick Moranis, and many others, there is no shortage of indelible moments to remember. To tell much more about the plot would spoil the ride, so go into it simply expecting a love story that is equal parts man loves woman and man loves city.
Steve Martin is also the author of my favorite play of all time – Picasso at the Lapin Agile – a show that I have acted in twice and directed once and would leap at the chance to do again at any opportunity in any capacity. There are so many parallels in theme between that play (written two years after the release of L.A. Story) and this movie. I believe that is a large part of why my affection for this film has only grown since I first saw it in middle school, even though several aspects of it feel a little dated now. Also I didn’t get all of the jokes initially, but I do now. I feel like that helps a lot with a comedy.
As I write this, I find many of my favorite lines rushing through my head. “Your usual table, Mr. Christopher? No, I’d like a good one this time.” “I’m hot from running now.” “She’s not so young. She’ll be 27 in four years.” Those may not make a lot of sense out of context, but I laughed typing each of them. However, I also find myself smiling when remembering the touching moments of the film, such as a couple of bits of crazy weather and lines like “A kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true.” If you are looking for a 98-minute respite from all the political rhetoric and sniping we see today, you could do a lot worse than L.A. Story.
FUN FACT – Someone on Twitter recently asked the world, “What is the strangest piece of information you have committed to memory?” My answer was that I know Sarah Jessica Parker’s character’s phone number by heart. (It’s 555-2312, by the way.) That is taking up space in my brain that could and should be used for more important things, but I guarantee that will never leave my brain.
Just Watch says that L.A. Story is sadly not streaming anywhere at this time. It is available for purchase from several streaming services or buy the DVD for 3 bucks on eBay.