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LA Story

Year: 1991
Production Co: Carolco Pictures
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Mick Jackson
Writer: Steve Martin
Cast: Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Richard E Grant, Marilu Henner, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patrick Stewart, Iman, Woody Harrelson, Rick Moranis, Paula Abdul, Chevy Chase
Between the bumbling idiot comedies of his early career and the lame, predictable, G rated family comedies of later times, this was Martin at his absolute best.

Yes, it still concerned his trademark silliness and slapstick, but there are two things it has besides that few other slapstick comedies manage.

The first is a genuine love for the craziness of living in the titular city without resorting to cheap or nasty jibes. Just watch some of the set-pieces. LA drivers opening fire on each other when the 'official' season starts as if duck or rabbit hunting has come round again, with Harris (Martin) making small talk with girlfriend Trudi (Henner) while he shoots out the window as if it's just another day. Harris driving instead of walking four doors down the street to his friend's house. The queue of muggers waiting in turn at the ATM to rip off people as they withdraw cash, greeting victims like they were waiters, Harris and SanDeE (Parker) giving the cash up with all the dismissive friendliness of giving a tip in a restaurant.

The second thing it has is a strongly beating heart. LA Story isn't just a love story, it's one where you feel the desire, sweetness and desperation of wanting. If your heart doesn't break a little while Harris (Martin) sits in his apartment, unable to move with grief as the love of his life Sara (then real-life wife Tennant) checks in at the airport to leave LA forever, you're a zombie. Much of it is played out to the whimsical and haunting strains of Enya, the strange merging of her soundtrack with a funny movie making it strangely more credible.

Martin plays TV weatherman Harris, firmly entrenched in the bizarre social machinations of Los Angeles life even while it isolates its denizens to the point of madness. Just watch him write the words 'lonely beyond belief' on a window of his house, or one of the girls at Trudi's lunch; 'I know girls who speed just to meet cops'.

When Sara arrives from the London Times to do a story on the City of Angels, Harris offers to show her around, falling head over heels for her at the same time. Moments of sublime comedy ('half double decaffeinated half caf') blend seamlessly with aching beauty, such as when Harris and Sara are reduced quite literally to childhood at the exuberant innocence of the in-love heart.

In trying to win Sara's heart, Harris is both helped and foiled by the people and character of the city around him, from the fascist Maitre'D of L'idiot restaurant (Patrick) – backed by the Fourth Reich Bank of Hamburg – and his burgeoning relationship with studying spokesmodel SanDeE to the cycle park where you're not allowed to run and Harris' four heart attacks (all imagined).

A love letter to both love itself, LA and being in love in LA, it's a modern classic.

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