It’s always tough to pick one thing and say 'Yeah, that’s my favorite'. Your response to works of art, more than anything apart from people, changes over time. You have to be careful not to select something merely because it struck a chord a long time ago, when you were a different person.
The movie I’m picking, however, suggested itself straight away, and partly because of longevity in my affections. I first saw it over twenty years ago; I most recently watched it just last week with my wife, who also holds it dear. It’s L.A. STORY, a funny, sweet and very silly movie about Los Angeles, and love. Yes, it’s kind of daft and is now becoming something of a period piece (both LA and people’s clothes look resolutely early 1990s), but that’s part of what I love about it. That’s the period when I was first visiting the city, and the movie captures the era perfectly, the bright sun, dappled patios, the sense of possibility and the chance of quietly momentous change.
The story? Well, it’s about a whacky TV weather guy (Steve Martin) who falls out of love (Marilu Henner), dallies with someone young and new (a fantastic early performance from Sarah Jessica Parker) and then, with the aid of a sentient freeway billboard, naturally, finds something far deeper and more magical, in the shape of a Englishwoman (Victoria Tennant) in town to visit her ex-husband (Richard E. Grant). There are moments in this picture that still make the hair on the back of my neck rise, moments that make me think 'Yes: when love comes to town, that’s what it’s like. It’s exactly that disconcerting, and humbling, and scary, and it arrives from outside, and you stand in awe.'
L.A. STORY is wistful and funny and romantic (not something I generally look for in my entertainment), and has stood the test of time for me in all departments. Not to mention that, in the shape of 'He can have the chicken' and 'Sorry, it’s my damned testicles' it’s produced two catchphrases that my wife and I are still using after two decades... to the utter bemusement of others.
Michael Marshall Smith