On Sunday night, I watched L. A. Story for the first time in many, many years. I’d just returned from L.A. and I suppose I was in a nostalgic L.A. state of mind. The movie used to be one of my favorites and having watched it again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it stands up to previous viewings. It is still one of my favorite movies.
I first saw the movie when it was released in theaters sometime in 1990. I went and saw it with my brother. I remember at the time the movie was tagged as “the first great comedy of the 90s.” Wow, that makes it seem old. Indeed, it has been 21 years when the movie came out and I was just about 18 when I saw it. I’ve lived with this movie more than half my life. Steve Martin wrote the screenplay–I believe he worked on it for something like 7 years and to me, it is one of the finest movies about Los Angeles that you can find. Part comedy, part farce, and part Shakespearean mashup, it portrays Los Angeles in a way that tourists, or even many people who live there never see it.
I never liked living in L.A., but if L.A. were really like what Steve Martin portrays in L.A. Story, there’s probably no place else I’d want to live.
I have the entire movie virtually memorized–even some of the muttered dialog that is barely audible. (The phone conversation with the m’atre d at L’idiot for instance.) But I still found myself stifling laughter as I watched it. (Kelly was asleep and I watched it in bed and didn’t want to wake her up.) My friends Rich and Dan and I could probably do all of the parts from the movie. It is hilarious.
But it is also a kind of touching love story, the story of a man in love with a woman as much as he is in love with Los Angeles. The scene in which Steven Martin and Victoria Tennent’s characters first come to the freeway sign, and the sign reads her mind is wonderful. Even better is the scene at the fund raiser dinner when the Martin and Tennent step outside and he kisses her.
She backs away, “Oh no, this is how mommy met daddy.”
But Martin takes hold of her and recites what the sign read from her mind, “Let your mind go and your body will follow.”
There are other great lines in the movie, not just the comedic stuff but the serious stuff, too. At one point, Martin’s character wonders, “Why is it your never sure when love starts, but you always know when it ends.”
The music is great and I wish there was a soundtrack–I could never in all of the years find one (–whereby I jump to Amazon just to double-check so that I don’t look foolish here and have 50 gazillion people send me a link saying, “It’s available on Amazon you moron!”)
I don’t watch L.A. Story often, and I don’t quote from it nearly as much as I used to, but I still think it is a fantastic movie, worthy of attention from newer audiences, and certainly worthy of a watch every year or two. I can’t wait until the little Z-Man is old enough to watch it so that I can explain to him all of the wonderful references and drive him absolutely batty.