Life in LA is the pits, according to scripters Lawrence and Meg Kasdan in Grand Canyon, their earnest, often moving but not totally successful film. Via its refreshing concentration on a black-white friendship (rare in non-action Hollywood pics), film explores contemporary racial tension and ambivalence.
Danny Glover (a tow-truck driver) and Kevin Kline (an immigration lawyer) come to a warm, if tentative, connection in their paradise-turned-hellhole, a city that still looks lustrous from the oddly smogless air but, up close, shows its ‘gone to shit’ as the film says of both LA and the country at large.
Glover is given a juicy role as the moral voice of a film mourning the loss of civility in a society torn apart by the widening chasm – the Grand Canyon – between rich and poor. Kline, also very good in his more understated way, conveys the edgy uncertainty of a white liberal struggling to cope with life in a city whose police routinely terrorize angry black inhabitants.
Kline’s also living on the moral edge by carrying on a half-hearted affair with his secretary, fresh young Mary-Louise Parker, who’s driven to distraction by his lack of emotional involvement.
The Steve Martin character, who whines, ‘Nobody in this town will admit that a producer is an artist,’ is a wicked caricature of action pic maker Joel Silver. But the Kasdans’ script vacillates uneasily between treating the character as a comic relief spouter of buzz words and a voice of genuine wisdom.
1991: Nomination: Best Original Screenplay