Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin
Tag line: "In the 1980's, director Lawrence Kasdan brought you The Big Chill. Welcome to the 90's"
Trivia: The scene where Mack is nearly killed by a bus, was taken from writer/director Lawrence Kasdan's own life
Back in 1991, I was a college student majoring in Communications, and every few weeks, the department would receive a press kit from 20th Century Fox, complete with a trailer and video interviews with cast and crew for one of that studio’s upcoming releases. One particular press kit we received was for Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon, and at that point in my life, if the movie wasn't action, horror or sci-fi, I simply wasn’t interested. I did eventually check out the trailer for Grand Canyon, and even a few of the interviews, but wasn't impressed.
My, how times change!
Set in Los Angeles, Grand Canyon presents a series of chance encounters, some miraculous, others quite tragic. Mack (Kevin Kline) takes a shortcut home one night and ends up turning down the wrong street. He's threatened by some thugs when his Mercedes breaks down in a rough neighborhood, and it's only through the quick actions of Simon (Danny Glover), a tow-truck driver, that a potentially violent confrontation is averted. Claire (Mary McDonnell), Mack’s wife, is out jogging when she discovers an abandoned baby hidden behind some bushes. She instantly falls in love with the child, and believes a miracle brought the two of them together. Davis (Steve Martin), a movie producer who makes gory action pictures, promises to never again turn out another blood-dripping film when he's shot in the leg during a robbery.
The strength of Grand Canyon lies in its sincerity, and no character embodies this sincerity better than Danny Glover’s Simon. Much of what Simon says in this film, from his conversation with the street thugs (“The world ain’t supposed to work like this”) to the story of his first visit to the Grand Canyon, would have seemed preachy in the hands of a lesser actor. Glover, however, is very convincing, keeping it all realistically low-key, and because he remains understated, we buy what he has to say. His Simon acts as the conscience for this small group of people, and is their guide towards a better future.
The fact that I passed over Grand Canyon so easily all those years ago was a mistake of youth, and yet I’m not sure I would have appreciated it then the way I do now. Lacking any viable worldly experience in 1991, the underlying message of Grand Canyon might have simply rolled off my shoulders. Seeing it today, it has settled comfortably in my mind.