1991, R, 134 min. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Starring Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell, Mary-Louise Parker, Alfre Woodard.
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Jan. 17, 1992
Outside of the overly religious, I usually like people who believe in miracles because they allow for the possibilities of wonder. Miracles are regarded by the practical as impossible, by the hip as ideologically uncouth and by the determined as an inconvenience. To be a real fan of miracles, you have to believe. This is a film about miracles. Centered on the comings and goings of six characters, it is about the miracles that settle quietly on their lives and, in a greater sense, it's about the miracle that, though the malevolent outside world threatens these people at every turn, it never really invades their lives. Mack (Kline), an affluent lawyer, finds his life being saved one night after he takes a wrong turn on the way home from a Lakers game by Simon (Glover) a tow truck driver. Mack is married to Claire (McDonnell) and is best friends with Davis (Martin), a successful Hollywood producer of big budget action films. Simon is single, his deaf daughter is at college, his single sister, who has a small daughter and a son being lured by the gangs, lives in the ghetto. Slowly the lives of these characters become involved with one another. Leaving narrative behind, Kasdan strings together a series of incidents as a way of evoking meaning. Grand Canyon is about the little triumphs in life, the unexpected moments of tenderness, of compassion, of caring, that are rooted in love and family (the good forces). These miracles are so miraculous because the outside world is so completely terrifying. Yet the film has no tragedy, even one of the characters who gets shot isn't really threatened. Still the whole tone is one of menace, every shot and even every background -- every storefront, every street scene, every house -- imparts information, about privilege versus poverty, about the inner city black rubbed up against the affluent white. There is no middle in Kasdan's world, no middle class, no middle narrative ground. But Grand Canyon isn't really about anything and its whole point is that it's about everything. The studio has not shied away from describing it as doing for the Nineties what The Big Chill did for the Eighties. They may be right, but that doesn't bode well for the decade. There are great scenes (many) and terrific performances, especially Glover and Woodard. But although Grand Canyon is about miracles, it doesn't really have the spirit to believe in them.