Rates: * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? I’m revisiting some fave movies I have on my DVD shelf.
LA: 72 degrees.
Harris K. Telemacher lives in LA and has had seven heart attacks… all imagined. In the course of an eventful few days he will lose his job, his agent, his girlfriend, buy a significant new pair of pants, meet a sentient freeway sign, and fall in love. It’s called La La Land for a reason: anything is possible.
After a string of hit, broadly silly comedies across the 1980s, Steve Martin turned his attention to something much more personal; a valentine to the weird wonders of Los Angeles, and to his then wife, Victoria Jackson, who plays his love interest.
This plays a bit like a psychedelic version of a classic Woody Allen film; there are funny observations about relationships, dating etiquette, social conventions, men and women, and the entertainment industry. But Martin filters these through his own unique comic sensibility, which is simultaneously cyncial and quirky. There are a tonne of snappy zingers, alongside a scene where Martin roller skates through the LA County Museum of Art and all the artworks turn to watch him pass. It is a very unusual mix, Martin would never be this Martin again, but it makes for a fun and surprising little rom com.
Martin has also called in favours from his friends in the biz, many of whom have hysterical one scene parts. My favourites of these are Patrick Stewart as a snooty head waiter, Chevy Chase as a disgruntled restaurant patron, and Woody Harrelson as a low tier TV producer, who delivers Martin a note on his performance: ‘more wacky, less egg head.’
For some reason this film – essentially about a mid life crisis – really resonated with me as a teenager. I watched it over and over again, and could probably still recite whole chunks of it. Watching it now, I did wonder why this one grabbed me so much. I mean, it is very funny, but it is much more aimed at someone the age I am now than someone in high school. I guess the message behind the hijinks is: most of modern life is ridiculous.
And that was something I already suspected was true at 14, and here was the proof. Also: the opening credits sequence ROCKS.