In its dream-like sweetness and fairy tale romanticism, L.A. STORY resembles another film written by and starring Steve Martin, ROXANNE. But the comic romance that was that film's raison d'etre is not much in evidence here.
The film unfolds from the clear-eyed gaze of Harris K. Telemacher (Martin), who immediately reveals his peculiar malaise by confiding to us: "I was deeply unhappy but I didn't know it because I was happy all the time." As a TV news program's wacky weekend weatherman, Telemacher predicts the
predictable, propagating a heaven-on-earth Los Angeles of perfect sunshine and a perpetual temperature of 72 degrees. But pockets of unease quietly begin to undermine his complacency, culminating in an outdoor luncheon with his testy girlfriend Trudi (Henner) and a group of shallow acquaintances.
Arriving late is unconventional British reporter Sara (Tennant), to whom Harris is curiously attracted. Shortly afterward, Harris has an epiphany on the Los Angeles Freeway, and his life is turned upside down.
In L.A. STORY, the romance assumes a supporting role beside the mystical, apocalytic aura evoked by the city itself. The characters in the film have no past, no future, and are in the grip of the off-balance life of L.A. Unlike Woody Allen's New York City, which becomes a staging area for
character angst and transformation, Martin's L.A. stifles the characters, and neither they, screenwriter Martin or director Jackson seem to be aware of it. Instead, Harris and Sara find themselves put through the paces of a Spielbergian fantasy landscape as they gaze upward at the divine white
aura of a Hollywood sign before the final clinch. And it is a sad loss, for the filmmakers squandered the opportunity to produce a satiric West Coast MANHATTAN.
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