Grand Canyon (1991 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lawrence Kasdan|
|Produced by||Michael Grillo
|Written by||Lawrence Kasdan
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Carol Littleton|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$40,991,329 (worldwide)|
Grand Canyon is a 1991 drama film directed and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, and written by Kasdan with his wife Meg. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film is about random events affecting a selection of diverse characters, the film explores the race- and class-imposed chasms which separate members of the same community. Grand Canyon was advertised as "The Big Chill for the '90s", in reference to an earlier Kasdan film.
After attending a Lakers basketball game, an immigration lawyer named Mack (Kevin Kline) finds himself at the mercy of potential muggers when his car breaks down in a bad part of Los Angeles late at night. The muggers are talked out of their plans by Simon (Danny Glover), a tow truck driver who arrives just in time. Mac sets out to befriend Simon, despite their having nothing in common.
In the meantime, Mack's wife Claire (Mary McDonnell) and his best friend Davis (Steve Martin) (a producer of violent action films) are experiencing life-changing events. Claire encounters an abandoned baby while jogging and becomes determined to adopt her. Davis suddenly becomes interested in philosophy rather than box-office profits after being shot in the leg by a man trying to steal his watch, vowing to devote the remainder of his career to eliminating violence from the cinema.
The film chronicles how these characters—as well as various acquaintances, co-workers and relatives—are affected by their interactions in the light of life-changing events. In the end, they visit the Grand Canyon on a shared vacation trip, united in a place that is philosophically and actually "bigger" than all their little separate lives.
- Kevin Kline as Mack
- Danny Glover as Simon
- Steve Martin as Davis
- Mary McDonnell as Claire
- Mary-Louise Parker as Dee
- Alfre Woodard as Jane
- Jeremy Sisto as Roberto
- Tina Lifford as Deborah
- Patrick Malone as Otis
- Randle Mell as The Alley Baron
- Sarah Trigger as Vanessa
- Twin sisters Candace and Lauren Mead as Abandoned baby
- Shaun Baker as Rocstar
- Marlee Matlin plays an uncredited role; she is a mom using sign language to communicate with her child as several youths are being sent off to camp.
- Randle Mell, real-life husband of Mary McDonnell, plays a homeless man that Claire encounters while jogging.
- Marley Shelton can be seen in one of her first roles as Roberto's girlfriend at camp.
- Director Lawrence Kasdan plays an uncredited role; he is berated by Davis for cutting out a "money shot" (a close-up of blood and brains hitting a window) from a particularly violent action scene in one of Davis' movies.
- The footage of the Los Angeles Lakers game in the film was shot before anybody knew Lakers guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson was HIV+. Critic Rita Kempley, in discussing the film, pointed to this scene as proof that "... the filmmaker and his team ha[d] truly caught society on the verge."
- The character Davis is based on aggressive action film producer Joel Silver.
Grand Canyon received generally positive reviews from critics; it has a 7/10 "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a critical rating of 81% based on 32 reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote,
Set in Los Angeles, and gliding gracefully among a representative set of characters, the film means to move through different economic strata, age groups and racial backgrounds in its search for common experience. If the ambition to do this is ultimately more impressive than the hazy, unfocused outcome, Mr. Kasdan still deserves a lot of credit for what he has tried."
In a similar vein, Washington Post critic Rita Kempley wrote,
Grand Canyon considers the ever-widening chasms that divide us, the shifting demographic fault lines that have set society quaking like the needle on Richter's scale. ... This City of the Angels captured by Kasdan, its skies buzzing with helicopters, reminds us most of all of Vietnam. But this is not war, it's suicide, America in the latent stages of self-inflicted apocalypse. Kasdan validates our fears, but he doesn't strip us of all hope, for the central image also promises something greater than ourselves. The view from the edge can be awesome.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly chided the film for its "... solemn zeitgeist chic," and called it "... way too self-conscious," but ultimately decided that "Grand Canyon is finally a very classy soap opera, one that holds a generous mirror up to its audience's anxieties. It's the sort of movie that says: Life is worth living. After a couple of hours spent with characters this enjoyable, the message — in all its forthright sentimentality — feels earned."
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, and wrote, "In a time when our cities are wounded, movies like Grand Canyon can help to heal." Ebert's television reviewing partner Gene Siskel also loved the film, with Ebert placing it at the #4 and Siskel at #6 on their 1991 top ten lists.
The film won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival. The screenplay was nominated for the Oscar (as Best Original Screenplay), the Golden Globe and the Writers Guild of America.
Phil Collins' 1993 song "Both Sides of the Story" references the scene from Grand Canyon where the young mugger tells Simon (played by Danny Glover) that he carries a gun to make sure people respect (and fear) him.
- "Grand Canyon," Box Office Mojo. Accessed Dec. 23, 2011.
- Kempley, Rita. "‘Grand Canyon’," The Washington Post (Jan. 10, 1992).
- ENOUGH ALREADY: Joel Silver, Model Mogul
- "Grand Canyon (1991)," Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed Dec. 22, 2011.
- Maslin, Janet. "Review/Film; The Accidents and Miracles in Everyday Life," New York Times (Dec. 25, 1991).
- Gleiberman, Owen. "Grand Canyon (1991)," Entertainment Weekly. (Jan 10, 1992).
- Ebert, Roger. "Grand Canyon," Chicago Sun-Times (Jan. 10, 1992).
- "Berlinale: 1992 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
- "Grand Canyon (1991)," Yahoo! Movies. Accessed 2 November 2009.
- Kot, Greg. "Pop: Phil Collins, Regular Guy: And Like Regular Guys, He's Worried About His Kids," Chicago Tribune (Nov. 7, 1993).
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