One thing I’ve noticed about Steve Martin’s more serious movies: as charming as they usually are with the premise and following story, the endings tends to leave me cold. I remember this being an issue with Roxanne and the same thing happened to me here. Up until the ending it’s been an entirely amusing litle affair and then it just loses me. The resolution feels flimsy and I don’t get any type of catharsis. I certainly liked L.A. Story but it just doesn’t finish with a satisfying note, so as a whole the movie ends up feeling lacking.
The satire of the Los Angeles lifestyle is pretty great, and it’s by far the best thing about the entire movie thanks to how amazing the jokes are. You have gags like a gang of muggers waiting patiently in line next to the ATM, who then step up after you do a withdrawal and politely introduce themselves as they rob you, or Patrick Stewart’s entire cameo as the Maitre d’ of the lavish restaurant, where he and the chef make a ridiculous and lengthy (they actually visit the bank and perform a thorough audit) financial background check on Martin after he attempts to make a simple table reservation. Both cases are wonderfully surrealistic parodies that got a good chuckle out of me.
I wouldn’t go as far as say that the main romance plot was dull, but to me it was clearly the weakest link. I didn’t care that much about Steve Martin’s relationship with Sara, the British journalist, nor his affair with super young and ditzy Sarah Jessica Parker, which was pretty lukewarm at best. I did however enjoy the funny gags that involved Martin’s romantic entanglements, like his reaction when his girlfriend revealed that she had been cheating him, or the extended bit where both Martin and Sara were having their own individual secret weekend getaway with a third party, and as fate would have, they ended up in rooms right next to each other in the same hotel and then shared the awkwardness of catching each other cheating when they run into each other in the hallway. Great stuff.
The magical elements are fun, but inevitably don’t really end up making anything about the movie be particularly memorable. I did find the use of the freeway traffic condition sign as the plot device to be genuinely adorable, but that’s about it. It’s weird how well it works despite being so on the nose about being a blatant plot device to get Martin and his leading lady Sara back together, but otherwise, meh.
L.A. Story is a pleasant viewing experience and entirely funny little movie to watch, even when it does not leave you with any particularly strong emotions or excitement. It’s an acceptable light comedy with a forgettable romance plot that even on a bad day still outweighs most modern cliché ridden day romcoms. Worth seeing, even as a mere curiosity.