L.A. Story (1991)

L.A. Story
Director: Mick Jackson
Writer: Steve Martin
Cast: Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard E. Grant, Marilu Henner, Susan Forristal, Kevin Pollak, Sam McMurray, Patrick Stewart
Seen on: 29.6.2021

Content Note: misogyny

Harris (Steve Martin) is the wacky weekend weatherman for a local L.A. TV station. He is dating Trudi (Marilu Henner), but he is not particularly happy. When he meets Sara (Victoria Tennant) at a brunch party through their mutual friend Roland (Richard E. Grant), Harris is instantly smitten. But not so smitten that he doesn’t also find saleswoman SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker) very attractive. After a magical incident where an electronic billboard starts to give Harris advice, he has to decide between the women in his life.

L.A. Story is a whimsical film, more interested in a ribbing love letter to L.A. itself rather than the characters in it. There are some nice laughs here, but also some stuff that hasn’t aged particularly well. I suspect that people who have a direct connection to L.A. will be particularly fond of it.

The film poster showing the silhouette of a person doing a handstand on a railing in front of a sunset over the ocean.

L.A. Story is really at its best when it makes fun of L.A. Be it the daily shoot-out on its freeways, or the workout at the local park where people hurry to fill spots freed by somebody having a heart-attack from working out in the heat. There are many little scenes like that in the background of the film that manage to draw a vivid, if of course exaggerated picture of L.A. itself.

I also really liked the idea with the prophetic billboard. This touch of magic in the film seems also very fitting for a portrait of L.A., home of Hollywood. It also offsets the often heavy irony and sarcasm: despite all the things that are very wrong in L.A., there is still something magical here.

Roland (Richard E. Grant), Sara (Victoria Tennant), Harris (Steve Martin) and SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker) on the beach together.

But in all the thinking about L.A., the story falls a little short. Harris is far from as charming as the film seems to think, and the portrayal of the women themselves is just misogynistic. Trudi is a joyless bitch, SanDeE* is vapid and ridiculous and Sara (ironically the only one not from L.A.) is the wet dream of dudes who believe they aren’t shallow. The characterization of Trudi and SanDeE* seems to say “there are only two kinds of women in L.A. and they both suck” which I would have been willing to let stand in the spirit of the film being a satire, if the men had gotten the same treatment. But that’s not the case. There aren’t many men in the film, but they all seem pretty “normal” characters, not just (sexist) tropes.

This misogyny did taint the film for me and made it hard to root for Harris or the romance. If you can look past it, or if you’re really into L.A., the film may still work for you, but I’m afraid I’m more on the “not so cool” side of things.

Harris (Steve Martin) on a hometrainer in a park.

Summarizing: meh.

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