Movie Review : L.A. Story (1991)
California is a strange place. I've never been there, but I know. It exists both in real life and in the mind of people like me, who have never went. I suppose the real California exists somewhere between these two iterations. It's how dreamscapes function: they are what you perceive them to be. Don't worry, I haven't done any drugs. Today, I want to talk to you about a movie which addresses this conundrum. The largely forgotten L.A. Story, written by and starring the immortal Steve Martin, is a movie about a California that may or may not be real and that's why it is memorable.
The protagonist of L.A. Story is Harris Telemacher (Steve Martin), a goofy television weatherman going through an identity crisis. He's a successful, but marginal public figure who's yearning for intangible things like love and fulfillment. Things that money can't buy. Telemacher meets a young British woman named Sara (Victoria Tennant) at a Sunday breakfast, which makes him understand something very important: he needs a fresh start. His Los Angeles experience made him sneaky miserable and he wants to experience something real. But good luck if you're trying to find authenticity in L.A.
At its core, L.A. Story is another one of these movies telling us that material pursuits are futile and that we should be pursuing meaningful relationship instead. Been there, done that, right? So, what makes it more interesting that the usual bullshit? The dreamscape. L.A Story does't necessarily condemn its titular story. It actually tries to help Harris figure things out through a talking signpost. It's existential magic realism. The portrait it paints is neither black of white, but rather shifting nuances of gray. Opens up its magic to Harris Telemacher for as long as he makes the right choices for himself and that is fucking cool.
That crucial choice Telemacher will eventually be brought to make is between Sara and the young and bubbly SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker). One is smart, cultivated and challenging and the other is... interesting enough, but does absolutely everything he wants. I know, I know, some of my female readers will scream when reading this, but remember it was 1991: nobody was woke, then. There is no good or bad people in L.A Story. Every character has good and bad within themselves, for as long as they're interesting to Harris Telemacher, who's... you know, filtering everything through his own perspective.
L.A Story is a different spin on an old idea. I would call it new, but it hasn't exactly been done again since 1991. It's probably the happiest and most colorful piece of existentialist art ever created and a sneaky smart romance Movies like this are why Steve Martin, who fell off the grid around the turn of the century, has always stuck with me. His movies are challenging and uncomfortable, yet push established ideas forward and offer new perspectives. I'm not surprised he turned his back on Hollywood to write plays and play banjo. He's too good for mainstream entertainment.