'L.A. Story': THR's 1991 Review
On Feb. 8, 1991, Tri-Star unveiled the zany L.A. Story in theaters nationwide, featuring Steve Martin as an existential local weatherman. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
While the ancient prophets consulted burning bushes or sojourned to shrines for spiritual advice, modern-day wise men, such as Steve Martin, consult the oracles of their natural environment. In L.A. Story, L.A. modern-man Martin seeks spiritual and personal counsel from an electronic Freeway Condition sign, which points him in the right direction in romance and life. If that same roadside oracle gave box-office advice, it would blink out "All Clear to Hitsville" for this smart and silly satire of chic and trendy Los Angeles.
In this cheerful ditty, Martin stars as Harris T. Telemacher, a "wacky" TV weatherman who is bored beyond belief by his superfluous job. To buffer his boredom, he even pretapes his weathercasts in advance, but this small thrill of living on the edge does not cure his professional and personal ennui. Generally, he's one smiley fella with all the right trinkets of the great life: a smartly dressed paramour (Marilu Henner), an absurdly undemanding job and squadrons of friends who never invade his space.
But it's not until a little rain, literally and figuratively, pours on his parade that Telemacher discovers he's been unhappy: One of his pretapes predicting the same old "72 and sunny" turns out to miss a flash flood, and he discovers his girlfriend has been sleeping with his agent for the past three years. But the resilient Telemacher, always one to discover the silver lining in the darkest clouds, feels liberated by his bad news. In a flash, he's suddenly free from his life of chipper desperation. He even finds a goal to pursue, a comely British journalist (Victoria Tennant) whose idiosyncratic needs match his own.
Structurally, but not spiritually, L.A. Story is akin to early Woody Allen — the Bananas period. It hop-skips from zany sight gags to surrealistic, philosophical segments, resembling Annie Hall where the obstreperous Woody confronted the modern wilds of L.A. But Martin's L.A. Story script is an affectionate slant on life in Lotus Land, not undercoated with the hostile bile of Allen's L.A. takes. It's a breezily cheerful and affectionate send-up of the contradictions of California chic.
Narratively, this crazy-grid comedy is slighter than a plate of California cuisine, but what it lacks in solid bulk it more than makes up for in its neon array of oddball cultural colors. Shining brightest is Martin, whose cool antic aplomb is in high form, whether roller skating through the L.A. County Museum in pursuit of culture or enduring a high colonic in quest of a bimbo.
Keys to the city also to Tennant for her quirky reserve as Martin's tuba-playing ideal and to Sarah Jessica Parker for her frisky verve as an aspiring "spokesmodel."
Under Mick Jackson's properly lit and healthy direction, this cleansing comedy zips along with a "totally L.A." gait, namely full speed ahead to ensure being fashionable late. Adding zing, but no cholesterol, to the concoction are the perfectly blended technical contributions. Andrew Dunn's canny cinematography, Lawrence Miller's neo-nutball production design and Rudy Dillon's cutting costumery capture L.A. perfectly in this smart and sunny story. — Duane Byrge, originally published on Feb. 7, 1991.