Let's talk for a minute about Steve Martin. He's someone who has been both wildly overrated and wildly underrated at varying points in his career. When he was doing his wacky Steve Martin stuff in the 1970s, with his stand up and SNL appearances, and the 1980s with the movies, his overexposure had him contending with some serious overrated issues. Let's face it: evolving tastes make the things that made us laugh 30 years ago kind of stupid now, but walking around with a fake arrow through your head has always been about as funny as kick in the crotch.
But right now, Steve Martin isn't getting the attention he deserves. Sure, Shopgirl was a stinker and he's doing the family comedy thing, but Bowfinger is one of the best movies that you probably never seen. And he's always been a brilliant writer, but he seems to have stepped it up a notch in the last few years. His novels and novellas are truly stylistically brilliant and his New Yorker pieces are worth the price of the magazine.
Which brings us to L.A. Story, a movie that made even a hardened New Yorker (a.k.a. me) soften on a city that he once described as "a cesspool of gang violence and untalented actors posing as service staff." L.A. Story (to me) remains his definitive work, a love letter to a city that makes itself so hard to love. Martin makes this movie alternatively profound and ridiculous, touching and hysterical, sprinkling Shakespeare references in with enema jokes. And the opening montage sets the tone for the movie: a strikingly beautiful sequence that captures the mundane act of picking up the morning paper.
More than anything, Martin captures exactly what it's like to live in L.A. It's a constant battle with traffic, finding the unconventional way to get somewhere. It's trying to stay on the cutting edge, while realizing that someone will always beat you to the next best thing. It's conversations about nothing that somehow mean something to everyone but you. And it's getting in your car to drive next door.
There's not a whole lot that's even good about LA, but this movie is one thing great about LA.