Grand Canyon

1991, Movie, R, 134 mins


GRAND CANYON is the cinematic equivalent of Planet Hollywood, the New York nightspot where ordinary people can supposedly rub shoulders with the rich and famous. In Lawrence Kasdan's movie, co-written by his wife Meg, big, dramatic events--deaths, shootings, etc.--take place alongside mundane things like cutting your finger while chopping vegetables or learning how to make a left turn in Los Angeles traffic. The film invites us into the lives of a wide cross-section of people, painting a densely textured portrait of a sprawling, modern city.

Mack (Kevin Kline), a successful immigration attorney, catches an L.A. Lakers game with his best friend Davis (Steve Martin), a self-absorbed, self-righteous film producer who specializes in blood 'n' guts exploitation fare and whose license plates read "GRSS PNTS." As he is driving back from the game, Mack's car konks out on an unlit street somewhere in Inglewood. He manages to call for a tow truck but becomes the target of a gang of hoods who threaten to take his car and maybe his life. Luckily, the tow truck arrives, driven by a man whose composure and quiet authority convince the gang to lay off. An eloquently thankful Mack rides back to the garage with his saviour, Simon (Danny Glover), and the episode marks the beginning of a friendship between the two men.

GRAND CANYON successfully recreates the random, haphazard ways in which individual lives intersect, and captures the sense of menace and disintegration that permeate contemporary urban life. It's much less convincing, though, when it tries to turn its characters into spokespeople. Kline, in particular, gets too many speeches that should be accompanied by a blinking subtitle reading "MESSAGE." Similarly, the Kasdans' attempt to bring the various strands of the story together through the metaphor of the Grand Canyon (it's wide, like the gulfs between different sections of society, but it can also bring us together in awe of its size and beauty) is unconvincing. leave a comment

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