The funny thing about L.A. Story is that I always quite liked it when I saw it back in the early '90s, but a lot of it was unfamiliar to me. Whether L.A.-centric or just soaked in the nuances of modern Americana, this comedy depicted an alien world. That's what it was always supposed to do. There are wonderful modern fairytale elements blended in there, but it's mainly a look at a strange culture/subculture/way of life. Funnily, and some might say depressingly, enough . . . . . . . . . . . . none of it seems so strange any more. None of it seems so absolutely American and/or Los Angelean. Hell, I now know more about the different flavours and types of coffees sold at Starbucks and Costa then I ever thought I would. I hate myself for that fact, but I usually hate myself while enjoying a medium caramel latte. To go.
Steve Martin plays Harris K. Telemacher, a resident of L.A. and a minor celebrity thanks to his whacky weather reports. He takes a lot of the stranger aspects of L.A. in his stride, but is also able to look around him and remember how bizarre his city is. The differences between his world and the world outwith L.A. are highlighted when he meets Sara McDowel (Victoria Tennant), an English newspaper reporter and also spends some time the the young and carefree SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker).
Mick Jackson directs this sun-bathed slice of surreal-tinged comedy from a script written by Martin, and both men do their best by the material. The majority of the film is little more than observational comedy shoehorned into movie form, but it works brilliantly. The other main element, involving Martin receiving advice from a wise freeway sign, may be too ridiculous for some to enjoy but fair play to Martin for using it as something that turns the tone of the whole movie from one that could have been mean and sour to something playful and affectionate.
The cast is overflowing with great choices. While I've never been the biggest fan of Tennant, she's good enough in her role here. Martin is great, as always, and Sarah Jessica Parker gives a spirited and lovely performance. It's so good that I actually had to look back over that sentence after putting the words spirited and lovely so close to her name. Richard E. Grant is enjoyable enough, and Marilu Henner, Frances Fisher, Kevin Pollak and Susan Forristal all do well. Cameos from Patrick Stewart, Rick Moranis, Woody Harrelson and Chevy Chase also add to the fun.
L.A. Story allows people to laugh at L.A. and its many quirks, but it also makes an effort to remind viewers that magic CAN happen there. It might just be movie magic, but magic is magic.