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Film: LA Story

L.A. Story is a romantic comedy starring (and written by) Steve Martin. Harris K. Telemacher (Martin) is a weatherman in L.A. whose love life is assisted by a mysterious, magical talking freeway sign. The city of Los Angeles is a star as well, one of the themes of the movie being the often bizarre attributes of the city itself, from the weather to earthquakes to the "fake" citizenry. Marilu Henner, Victoria Tennant and a pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker play the love interests of Harris. The movie is peppered with humorous cameo appearances, from Patrick Stewart's scene-stealing maître d'hôtel to Rick Moranis' gravedigger. (And yes, that is Paula Abdul as the rollerskater.)


Tropes:

  • All Just a Dream: Heavily implied that the entire story is a fantasy inside the head of Harris, who has a PhD in Arts and Humanities - which explains the Shakespeare references - and which is also why the film is one huge Empathic Environment.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ariel, who at the very least has a close live in relationship with another woman. Deleted scenes made the relationship more explicitly gay.
  • Arc Words: "The Weather Will Change Your Life. Twice."
  • Bilingual Bonus. Plenty. "L'Idiot" is "The Idiot". "El Pollo del Mar" is "The Chicken of the Sea".
  • Brass Balls: There's a great scene where Harris (Steve Martin) is walking on the beach with arrogant bastard Roland (Richard E. Grant), and there's this metallic clanging noise. Harris asks what it was and Roland says "It's a nuisance. It's my damn testicles."
  • Call Back: "Let your mind go and your body will follow."
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Sara is alarmed when there's a minor earthquake during dinner, but the locals just pick up their drinks to avoid spilling them and pay it no attention, not even missing a beat in their conversation.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Harris is saddled with his girlfriend Trudi, until she admits to having an affair, which cues an immediate break-up and opens the door to pursuing a less problematic romance.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: All of Los Angeles, according to Roland.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harris. In spades.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Sara. It doesn't help that she has no idea Americans drive on the other side of the road.
  • Dumb Blonde: SanDeE*
  • Empathic Environment: ...yes.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: The freeway sign plays "Amazing Grace" with electronic bagpipe sounds.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe, Harris' boss (Woody Harrelson), wants a "more wacky, less egghead" weathercaster. Keep in mind, Harris is already loopier than a roller coaster in his weather reports.
    Boss: You're doing some sort of intellectual thing.
    Harris: Intellectual? It may seem intellectual to you, because you were educated with with a banana and an inner tube! This is an intellectual-free zone!
    Boss: More wacky, less egghead.
  • Fake Brit: Rick Moranis puts on a British accent in his role as the gravedigger.
    • Also, in-universe, Trudy accuses Sara of doing this... despite the fact that Sara is British!
    Harris: "Oh right, like that big phony, Winston Churchill."
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: LA Story has a very snooty French restaurant called l'Idiot, where the lead has to show his bank balance and several other references even to get a reservation. Snooty character played to Large Ham perfection by Patrick Stewart.
    "You can't have the duck. Do you think with a financial statement like this you can have the duck?"
  • Give Me a Sign: Literally, the roadside sign that dispenses advice.
    Sign: "Kiss Her, You Fool."
  • Is This a Joke??: Harris' initial reaction to the talking road sign.
    • The Maitre'd at L'Idiot:
    "You think with a financial statement like this, you can have the duck? !"
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Inverted. Harris and his friends agree to meet at a trendy new restaurant whose name is pronounced "leed-YO", but when the scene shifts there, we see that it's actually spelled "L'Idiot", and that is the correct pronunciation in French.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: When Ariel gives Harris the experimental beverage.
    Harris: It's exactly like licking a shag carpet.
    • Becomes a Brick Joke after Harris pours the rest on a plant, only for Ariel's "roommate" to exclaim the next day "Hey, my plant's dead!"
  • Magic Realism: Many elements, but especially the highway sign.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: SanDeE*
  • Mistaken for Quake: Inverted in the cafe scene, which has the ground begin to shake about halfway into the meal. Sara, just in from the UK, worriedly asks what's going on and the others tell her it's just an earthquake.
  • My Nayme Is: SanDeE*. Harris is initially relieved her name is "Sandy," because "everybody has weird names now, like Tiffany with p-h-i, and instead of Nancy it's Nanceen." Then SanDeE* tells him how to spell hers.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Harris K. Telemacher.
  • Offscreen Crash: in one scene, a man in the background can be seen juggling a chainsaw, and we can hear that it's turned on. Seconds later, as the camera moves away leaving him out of shot, we hear the sound of a man screaming in pain.
  • Pet Homosexual: Ariel, although it's pretty subtle.
  • Random Passerby Advice: Sara remembers when this once happened to her.
    Sara: I went roller skating once at the Brooklyn Rollerdome. It was awful. I was completely out of control. I slammed right into this 8-foot tall black guy in a green satin jump suit. I said, "I'm sorry, could you help me?" He looked down at me with deeply stoned eyes and said: "Little lady, let your mind go and your body will follow."note 
  • Right Through the Wall: Harris and SanDeE* end up in the hotel room next to Sara and Roland.
  • Road Trip Across The Street
  • Romantic Rain: At the end of the movie, the magical freeway sign controls the weather to prevent Sara from returning to London. Sara takes a taxi to the home of her love interest Harris Telemacher, and they embrace and kiss in a rainstorm.
  • Shout-Out: To Shakespeare, and especially Hamlet's gravedigger scene.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Twice in a row.
  • Snowclone Title: To New York Stories.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The fountain when Harris and Sara finally make love.
  • Spell My Name with an S: SanDeE*. Not Sandy, "Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E and a star".
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: The art critique scene-see below. invoked
  • Wannabe Line: Harris has to go through The Fourth Reich Bank to get a reservation at the latest trendy restaurant.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic??: The hilarious, rambling, erotic critique Harris gives about... a painting of a large, red rectangle.invoked

A Kiss Before DyingFilms of the 1990sThe Last Boy Scout

alternative title(s): LA Story
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