Valentine’s Day is upon us, time again to recoil from the hard-sell merchandising of love, sweet love. Witness six new movies about relationships. All of them are comedies, which says a lot about sex in the Nineties. The better ones temper the jokes with a twist of irony, which brings us to L.A. Story, written by and starring Steve Martin. This movie triangle of a man, a woman and a city is being touted as the West Coast version of Woody Allen’s 1979 classic Manhattan.
Not quite. Allen’s Big Apple was a striking black-and-white vision of the city, a place where neurotic eggheads discussed love and death to a soaring Gershwin score. Martin’s Big Orange offers a muzzy, pastel-colored view of the City of Angels, a place where neurotic airheads burble about fashion, food and fabulous haircuts over the din of traffic.
Allen’s Isaac Davis was an intellectual who quit his sellout job as a TV writer for a stab at a serious novel. Martin’s Harris K. Telemacher doesn’t know anything about personal integrity. He’s the goofball weatherman at a local TV station who gets fired for pretaping the weekend forecast. Harris merely tries to get his job back. Don’t his bosses realize that the weather is always the same in L.A.? And hey, he has things to do on weekends, like getting fitted for slacks or waiting while his fashion-plate girlfriend (Marilu Henner) primps for a date (“I’m doing thirty-minute lips”). Harris senses that he’s “deeply unhappy” inside, but he’s too cheery on the outside to care.