1991. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
1991 Los Angeles was a city on the verge of self destruction.
Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon is the ultimate message of healing. The film involves various characters of different walks of life and a herculean effort to show that we, as humans are all in this together, and are simple things when compared with the natural wonders of the world.
The Grand Canyon itself is such a marvel, but it's Kasdan's intimate story, both heart breaking and inspiring, that is the true wonder of the universe in this film.
It's hard to review this film on a technical level, because it instantly goes for your heart. Not in a hallmark movie way, but in such a manner that you can't help but be in awe of how beautiful, and terrifying life can be.
Kevin's Cline Mack has a near fatal encounter while stranded in a "bad neighborhood". His angel, Danny Glover's Simon, rescues Mack not only from the physical danger of the gun, but the metaphysical danger of complacency and being unappreciative of the miracles of one's family and friends. Their relationship as it evolves is a thing of beauty that requires repeat viewings to catch all the subtleties of their discourse.
Steve Martin is perfection in his role as the devil on Mack's shoulder, a soulless Hollywood exec whose own near death experience changes him...or does it?
The always amazing Mary McDonnell plays Mack's wife who finds an abandoned baby and sees it as a chance for a second start. Alfre Woodard plays Simon's love interest with strong charisma, countered by her best friend and Mack's former lover Mary-Louise Parker, showing emotional frailty that would be further explored in her unforgettable turn in Weeds.
James Newton Howard's score is tremendous, encapsulating the wonder of life in the presence of greatness, whether a natural beauty like the Grand Canyon or a family's strength as it rallies together to save one their own from the peril of the heartless streets.
Owen Roizman's eye catches the life of LA unlike any other film on the subject. When it's the positive, the screen is alive with the palette of life. When it's dangerous, LA transforms to a graveyard of tenement tombstones haunted by gang colored clad wraiths of the nights.
In the end, Grand Canyon moves it's various players through different challenges, both mundane and spiritual, towards the Canyon itself, reminding us, that despite issues of color, race, money, religion, etc. we're all part of the human experience and it this sense of kinsman-ship that defines us.
As my thoughts go out to victims of senseless violence over this weekend I can't help but feel strange that I had picked this film to review next. Life is a truly magnificent thing if you are brave enough to embrace it.