Grand Canyon (1991)
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I have a pretty level sap-meter. The buzzer never went off during this film. If you're a thinker (rather than a casual viewer) this movie delivers. Exponentially. Absolutely mesmerizing. (Do you have to agree with the message to appreciate the display? Who cares if it made you warm and fuzzy or not, was it interesting?)
Personally, the movie affected me significantly. In my top 5.
Note: The front-page reviewer clearly speaks from a flawed African American perception. What he may have failed to recognize, is, there was a hand shake. Not a hand - out. The spiritually dead white man', simply saw a man to respect, and admire. And he did something about it. The fact he was black had little, if anything, to do with it (color is simply used to draw the parallel. And the chasm. It's no accident the opening sequence shifts from black and white to color either). If you view the blacks in this movie as token' you may want to reassess YOUR angst. You may be seeing only black and white yourself, eh. Just a thought.
Sometimes sentimental. Sometimes giving up on the unsolved future. Sometimes kissing the brow of the undeserving. Always scary and beautiful.
I know, not really a logical assessment, but if you saved yourself a fraction of your... well... 'innocense'..., a fraction of your desire for a solid horizon to look at, you will love this movie without a second consideration, and you'll need a LOT more time to explain that to yourself.
A very personal confession: The soundtrack makes me cry over what I've lost and gambled away for the prize of cynical safety. Nothing will come back. I am the child of black jokes. But 'Grand Canyon' reminds me of the ever-lasting loophole into hope.
This is the movie I will never be able to praise sensibly.
'Grand Canyon' will stay my guilty pleasure.
This is a truly beautiful movie. I had almost forgotten in my hard-boiled pride what that word means..., until I watched 'Grand Canyon'..., and had to watch it again... and again...
A long time ago film trailers used to promise, "It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry." That's a very trite and shorthand method of describing what Grand Canyon does. It takes you to the best places in human experience and the next moment takes you to the gates of hell.
Much of the film is paced to cycle back and forth between people being close to happiness and the same people being close to horror. It's always a short step, too. Just to manage that swing with grace and without making it look false or exaggerated is directorial genius.
Spoiler (of sorts) coming up. After getting the audience used to rocking back and forth through the emotional spectrum, the film throws a curve with a sequence that doesn't go from good to bad and back but instead escalates from an ordinary marital spat, through an accidental self-inflicted knife wound that may or may not require stitches, to an earthquake that has the characters run from the house. In the moment of their relief, argument forgotten, cut finger forgotten, the earthquake survived, a neighbor woman calls out that her elderly husband has collapsed. The couple rushes to his aid. I cried when I saw this sequence. I cried every time I saw it. I'm crying now. It isn't sadness that does this to me. It's not a particularly sad sequence. What tears me up is that this few minutes of film was PERFECT. That's PERFECT! Astounding. (end of spoiler)
There's so much to say about Grand Canyon. It portrays relatively ordinary people experiencing epiphanies and it lets the viewer experience them vicariously. They aren't showy or overblown and there's no long pause to examine the moment carefully. The film moves on at the pace of life. Even when the characters do try to make sense of what has happened, they are uncertain of what to derive from their experience.
Grand Canyon is a very human film.
Along the way we are asked question after question about life. Davis (Steve Martin with a great beard) asks himself 'Is my making a violent movie (and by extension our enjoyment of it) causing the violence in society?' Claire asks "What kind of world throws away something as precious as a human life?' Mack is not immune as he asks 'Is it possible to pass beyond the bounds of race and (an even harder step) finance? These are of course not quoted from the film, but generalities. Others ask their questions too, and to be honest it raises more than it answers.
But that is the nature of life. We strive all our lives to find answers to questions we will never totally answer, and in certain cases have to make answers fit to our own needs and desires. As humans we thrive on questions we cannot answer. Some answers are real. Claire and Mack come to realize that even though they could take the easy road and let the state take the baby, their finding it placed the responsibility for her life in their hands. Some answers are not. Davis `Sees the Light' and decides not to make violent films, but the next day turns around and dismisses his epiphany as subordinate to his art.
We all seek answers. This movie does not answer them for; it simply reminds you to keep looking for the answers.
I don't know much about Kasden but have tried to learn more. He seems to manage to insert his spiritual message in an entirely entertaining way in recent films: witness "French Kiss" and Mumford"...both of which deal cleverly with loss and reinventing ourselves. I suspect he wrote many of the Jedi and Yoda parts of the original Star Wars films --the Jedi philosophy seems consistent with his own. I am a student of Conscious Creation concepts and love films so am always happy to see how Mr. Kasden weaves his message into his latest films.
Thank you, Mr. Kasden and please keep creating!
It's a great film, a powerful film, a healing film, about the power of listening, truly listening to one another. I've seen it six times now, and it entertains and inspires me with every subsequent viewing. But why the poor reviews for this movie? Maltin's movie guide gives it two out of four. Too melodramatic, too much coincidence, too sappy, are the expressions that I read the most. Yes, there is melodrama in this story, and yes, there is a lot of coincidence, too. But it delivers with an intensity and force that seems supple. For all of the "plot" that exists in Grand Canyon, such as drive-by shootings, a police chase, an earthquake, a love affair, a woman's discovery of a baby in the bushes, another shooting, a near accident by a new driver, and worldly advice from a homeless man, this movie wins because of the smart performances by Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, Danny Glover, and Jeremy Sisto. It also succeeds because of Lawrence Kasdan's skillful direction and writing. You know that this isn't just another movie when you consider a sequence at the beginning of the film that involves Kevin Kline being harassed by four black youths. Danny Glover plays a tow truck driver who assists the Kline character, but not before he gets harassed too, by the leader of the bunch. Listen to the dialogue as the kid suggests to Glover,"Are you afraid of me because of me, or because I have a gun?".
Grand Canyon is filled with one perceptive scene after another. Steve Martin should have been nominated for best supporting actor as a movie producer who has a change of heart and then a subsequent change of mind. I think his character is a warning that "the good" can carry us forward, that idealism is a virtue, but one that we must fight for constantly rather than depend upon.
I fear that Grand Canyon may be lost forever in the wilderness of non-new releases at the video store. But with the deals now on older releases as low as 99 cents, I plead with anyone who has read this far into a review from a reviewer that you will thank after having rented it, Grand Canyon is something special. If you loved Magnolia, another movie with a big ensemble about deep humanist themes, you'll love Grand Canyon, too.
It perfectly captures the confusion and violence that were so rampant in the early nineties. But it also dramatically affirms the capacity of individuals to love, think and care. In a slight way, the movie was of its time. It partly portrays society as a balloon about to burst. Because the country was in a recession, and so void of leadership, this was true of that time. But the movie is also timeless. I think it could honestly stand up against any movie that has ever been made, and it is the most overlooked film of all time.
The performances are easy, relaxed, and natural; just what you would expect from "A List" actors. Martin contributes the performance which leads into his more recent Shopgirl, guiding you through life, love, and the pursuit of wisdom if not happiness. Kline is the straight - the suit - the conformist of the film, and as such his performance is crisp and refreshing.
This work deals with life in all aspects. It engenders a true emotional investment in its characters, and leaves you feeling hopeful that Mankind is not doomed, after all, no matter WHAT you believe, deep down.
All in all? This is delightful, with a gritty moment or two, and easy natural dialog which draws you in, assisting its audience in gaining a high enjoyment from this work. It's definitely worth your time, though it may not be every one's top choice as Friday/Saturday night entertainment.
I really enjoyed the intelligence this exhibited. It's not typical, and was an unexpected surprise. Another wonderful surprise was the honesty exhibited herein. The couples and friends hold detailed conversations, which feel and sound fully honest and (again) natural. I was very impressed with this work, and will be adding it to the DVD collection soon.
It rates a 9.1/10 from...
the Fiend :.
In the song `Johnny 99,' Bruce Springsteen sings about a part of town where `When you hit a red light you don't stop,' and when Mack (Kline) leaves a Laker's game at the Forum and decides to try a short cut to avoid traffic, it is precisely in `that' part of town that his car gives up the ghost. His cell phone is dead, but he manages to find a phone booth and call for road service. But just as he gets back to his car, he becomes the target of a gang of armed young hoodlums out for an easy score or possibly more. And when things are looking about as bad as they can for Mack, the tow truck arrives, and out steps a man named Simon (Glover), who thankfully knows a thing or two about negotiating with gang members; after all, this is his turf-- where he lives and makes his living. Simon takes Mack out of harms way, and it is at that auspicious moment that a convergence of two heretofore divergent worlds occurs.
Mack is an immigration lawyer who lives and works within the environs of the Miracle Mile; Simon is a part of the town in Springsteen's song. Two individuals from different worlds whom fate brings together for a split second; and It's a moment that is destined to change both their lives forever, and like ripples issuing from a stone dropped into a pond, it is soon going to touch and make a difference in many other lives, as well. Mack and Simon are about to learn a few things from one another, the most important of which may be found in Simon's perspective of the human race, and the significance of `people' when compared to one of Eternity's masterworks, the Grand Canyon.
Lawrence Kasdan and Meg Kasdan wrote the screenplay for this film, from which Mr. Kasdan proceeds to deliver one of his finest cinematic offerings. As previously stated, this is more than a film; it's a contemplation of who we are and what we have become as a species during our time upon this planet, and where it's all taken us. And under Kasdan's steady guidance and insightful gaze, it is truly riveting drama that works especially well because there is something in it to which everyone will be able to identify or relate. Certainly it will strike a deeper chord with those who live or have spent time in a large metropolitan area; the situations in this film will resonate much more for someone who has lived in L.A., as opposed to those born and raised in Independence, Oregon, for example. But all will find a connection with the human issues Kasdan so incisively examines, because they are universal in nature. Quite simply, Kasdan hits a perfect pitch here. This is emotionally involving drama from beginning to end, aided in no small part by the mesmerizing score by Bill Conti and James Newton Howard that serves as a veritable pulse for the entire film.
The outstanding ensemble cast matches Kasdan's excellence with a number of unforgettable performances, beginning with Kline and Glover. Kline gives the kind of performance we've come to expect from him, which is to say convincing, believable and entirely credible. He explores all of the nooks and crannies of his character and concisely expresses all that he finds there. Glover, too, hits his stride perfectly, making Simon genuine and real by finding his character's center and effectively maintaining his focus on it.
It is Mary McDonnell, however, who nearly steals the show with her portrayal of Claire, Mack's wife. This is an extremely complex character, and McDonnell manages to thoroughly examine all of her myriad emotional levels and express them convincingly. This is a woman at a most fragile time of her life, with the concerns of being a loving, devoted wife in conflict with her more maternal nature; coping with the sense of loss associated with the fact that her only child, Roberto (Jeremy Sisto) is fifteen and growing up too fast, and seeking to satisfy her need to nurture. In Claire, McDonnell creates a woman with an absolute aura of beauty about her; it's a brilliant performance that is the very heart of the film.
And finally, Steve Martin (Davis), Mary-Louise Parker (Dee) and Alfre Woodard (Jane) take `Grand Canyon' to the zenith of cinematic accomplishment. 10/10.
Take note of Mary Mcdonnell, Kevin Kline and Danny Glover's wonderful performance through this whole film. These actors are amazing and really show the true glow and meaning of what message is being sent to all of us. These are 3 of my favorite actors for life after seeing this film over 10 years ago now. I still enjoy it again and again. Also enjoy the wonderful soundtrack with it and don't forget to count how many times you see the helicopter fly by and try to figure out it's symbolism for the movie??hmmm... I almost forgot this is probably Steve Martin's very first serious acting role in any film he has ever done. He, too does an excellent job in this movie. This may come as a surprise to most of you. Sit back, relax and enjoy truly good film making.....
Taking place in Los Angeles, an upper-class lawyer named Mack (Kevin Kline) takes a shortcut through the seedier side of town only to have his car break down at the worst time. He calls for a tow truck, and has to wait for awhile, only to soon be threatened by a group of dangerous people who want his car. Soon the tow truck driver arrives at the perfect moment, and out steps Simon (Danny Glover) to take the truck away. Both men are threatened, but Simon manages to get himself, Mack, and the car out of dire straits. It is from here on out that a friendship develops between the two men over a lifetime with Mack helping out Simon just as Simon had helped him out of a dangerous situation earlier. You see Simon's sister Deborah (Tina Lifford) is living in a dangerous neighborhood with her two children, and fears for her oldest son who seems to be roaming the streets at night with some bad people. Mack offers them a better place to live as well as hooking Simon up with his secretary's friend Jane (Alfre Woodard).
This is the main plot of the film, but there are other smaller plots involving the same secretary mentioned above (Mary Louise Parker) as well as Mack's wife, (Mary McDonnel) who discovers an abandoned baby not long after their son Roberto (Jeremy Sisto in his first movie role) has gone to camp for the summer, and will likely be moving on with his own life soon. The details of all these plots are brought together into one complex movie which uses a police helicopter as a metaphor for life and as a bridge to entwine all the different scenes. This simple plot device works very well and helps greatly with the flow of the story.
The director Lawrence Kasdan, whose biggest movie to this date was The Big Chill, has created a splendid movie here. The cast is excellent, and most of the ideas are well thought out, but alas it falls short of greatness because some points, that would've made the film even stronger, are glossed over. The story involving the secretary is one, and the second involving Simon's nephew is the other. These scenes should've been more apart of the entire story, and then maybe Lawrence Kasdan's views of life between the upper and lower classes would've been more on a superior level instead of just very good. Still Grand Canyon exceeded expectations, and yes you will get to see a view of the canyon that this movie was named after. There is also a small role for Steve Martin as Davis, a producer of violent films, who offers his own views on life, and has a small part to play in this movie's ideas.
It seems that "Crash" has somewhat renewed people's interest in race relations, but this one came out much earlier. Maybe we'll never be able to have stable race relations in this country. But either way, "Grand Canyon" is a great movie. It affirms Kevin Kline as my favorite actor. Also starring Mary McDonnell, Mary-Louise Parker and Alfre Woodard.