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L.A. Story (1991)
Director: Mick Jackson

review by Peter Schilling

One of Steve Martin's best films, this daffy romantic comedy delivers a constant and endlessly amusing series of sketches on richly absurd themes inspired by Los Angeles lifestyles. This is a decadent city of magic where the crazy locals rate their movies and earthquakes on similarly numbered sliding scales, while anonymous commuters driving on the freeway maintain a social responsibility to shoot at one another without provocation. There's much wit to be found in spirally twisted LA spin, or simple gross exaggeration.
   Martin plays goofy TV weatherman, Harris, who has a demanding girlfriend (Marilu Henner), membership of a clique of assorted LA weirdoes, and a curious habit of roller-skating through art galleries. Harris is destined to split-up with his current partner, just in time to start a fresh relationship with boutique Valley girl, SanDeE* - her signature spelling, of course (flawlessly portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker), and find a more stable soul-mate in the form of British journalist, Sara (Victoria Tennant), when he receives advice messages from an illuminated traffic sign. This billboard acts as fortune-teller and matchmaker to Harris' perpetually crashing and barely organised love life, and deus ex machina to the main plot.
   One of the film's best features is the mutual antagonism between observational trivia and genuine high culture that characterises Martin's keenly erudite script, which also grants close attention to the ludicrousness of modern romance: on the new couple's very first date, hyperactive SanDeE* persuades Harris to go for an enema. There are also excellent performances from the supporting cast members, including Richard E. Grant (as Sara's lusty ex-husband), and Patrick Stewart as the haughtily arrogant maitre d' at a prohibitively exclusive restaurant. Watch for surprisingly effective cameo appearances from Martin's fellow comic-actors, such as Chevy Chase and Rick Moranis, too.
previously published online, VideoVista #28
L.A. Story
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