With my recent tirades against romantic comedies, it appears a little strange to see me giving a perfect rating to a romantic comedy. Like I said, however, if you can take this tired formula and make something fresh out of it, I’m sold. I don’t care that the story is about a man and a woman falling in love. I just don’t want to see that story played out in the same fucking fashion film after film. Studios and filmmakers seem to think that if they don’t present a romantic story in a recognizable (i.e. formulaic) way, then audiences won’t care to see it. They’re afraid to be a little risky and present the idea of love in all of its myriad aspects (even when that means the boy and the girl don’t fall in love by the end). In L.A. Story, the man and the woman do fall in love, but that’s totally ok because the story is conceived so imaginatively that it ranks as one of the best romantic comedies I have seen as well as one of my favorite films of the 90s and one of the best films about L.A. You see, this isn’t just a love story between a man and a woman. L.A. Story is more importantly Steve Martin’s loving tribute to his city of angels, Los Angeles.

Steve Martin is Harris K. Telemacher, a “wacky weatherman” in L.A. who is looking for love. His current relationship is on the rocks, which is sensed by a freeway sign (yes, a freeway sign). The sign tells Harris that it finds people who are in trouble and it helps them. Harris has no idea what the sign is talking about until one day he meets an English woman (Victoria Tennant, Steve Martin’s real wife at the time) and falls in love with her. She’s unlike the materialistic and artificial L.A. populace, which is what attracts Harris to her. Of course, this wouldn’t be a very good romantic comedy if there weren’t complications hindering the two from getting together.

You can probably tell from the fact that Steve Martin is being helped by a freeway sign that L.A. Story is not your conventional romantic comedy. There is a fantastical, fairytale element to this movie, which gives the movie its appeal. Martin is a native Los Angeleno and he imbues this film with his personal observations of L.A. He lovingly pokes fun at the strange quirks and obsessions L.A. is known for. If you’re familiar with L.A. culture, you’ll even better appreciate Martin’s satire. For example, there is a famous scene where Martin and a bunch of his friends are sitting around a restaurant table when an earthquake hits and no one seems to notice. Moreover, the group’s conversation revolves around empty and shallow topics that only Los Angelenos can manage to concoct. What makes L.A. Story a warm-hearted film is that Martin isn’t poking fun at L.A. culture or looking down upon it. On the contrary, he embraces its weirdness. Rather than stand against this culture, Harris Telemacher is a part of it. Even the English woman he meets is a part of the city’s strange world. She arrives in L.A. to write about the city for a newspaper, but to her delight she finds solace in what the city has to offer. She discovers that L.A. is where you come to reinvent yourself in any way you want. It truly is an oasis in a desert.

I guess its unfair to call L.A. Story Steve Martin’s Woody Allen movie, but just as Allen’s films are an ode to New York City, Martin’s film is the same to Los Angeles. I have always liked Steve Martin and I think anyone who doesn’t needs to check themselves into therapy. Its impossible to not like this man. His ability to write and act in sophisticated comedies, do dramas, and perform physical humor in family friendly fare makes him one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. And he doesn’t fucking age!! He looks today exactly the same way he did 30 years ago. Martin combines his physical comedy with his unique charm to give us one of his most classic and memorable characters. You begin to wonder if Harris K. Telemacher is really Steve Martin in disguise and I think to a large subconscious extent he is. Its fascinating to see L.A. from the eyes of Steve Martin and it makes me wish Martin would write a regular magazine column where he simply espouses on his city.

This is the only movie I have seen Victoria Tennant in and she’s one of the most charming British ladies I have seen. She and Martin have such wonderful chemistry together that its difficult to imagine that their real-life marriage fell apart. I mean how can you break up after the music of Enya causes the weather to change so you can be together? This leads me to make a little comment about Enya. Her music is a major part of this movie, especially during the end. Because of this movie, I became a huge fan of her music (that is until the rest of the country decided to buy her music and commercialize her to the point of oversaturation…thanks America!). The Enya montages are a bit cheesy to watch now, but back then her music was the greatest thing a movie soundtrack could have and it made for an effective, moving climax.

L.A. Story also contains an early career performance for Sarah Jessica Parker. She plays a ditzy L.A. blonde who likes to spin around on the beach and take classes to be a product spokesmodel. She’s always bubbly and constantly moving around. She becomes Steve Martin’s “younger” girlfriend to (literally) fuck around with. Parker was kind of known for these types of roles when she first began her Hollywood career, but she sort of broke out of those to be a more sophisticated dumb blonde in her later career (see Sex and the City). Parker represents the typical L.A. roller-skate beach girl who likes to “experience” different things like oxygen bars, high-colonic anemas, and yoga (in the 90s, yoga hadn’t yet gone mainstream).

For anyone who’s never been to L.A. and wants an idea of what its like, L.A. Story is the perfect cinematic representation of the city. It captures its essence like no other movie I can think of and for someone like me who doesn’t really like the city, it makes it quite an appealing destination. Aside from that, however, the film is a charming romantic story that works on various levels. It doesn’t play down to the audience and its lead characters are not your typically great looking young actors. It’s a love story for those who like to daydream.

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