December 11, 2018

Classic Film Review: Grand Canyon

Simon: “Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don’t know that yet. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.”

* * *

The police helicopter is omnipresent. Every situation, every relationship, every day and every night has its dangers.

Like the night you decide to avoid the traffic after the game and take a shortcut home. Your car breaks down on a deserted street in a dangerous inner city neighborhood. Before you know it, some gangbanger holding a gun is forcing you out of your car.

Your son is flirting with decisions that will ruin his life, and maybe yours too.

You jog through the city where scary looking homeless strangers step out from behind dumpsters and startle you.

You’ve done something wrong, and now you are feeling pressure from the consequences of your actions.

Your teenager is stretching his wings, and you are about to walk through a door into a new season of life so filled with unknowns you don’t know how to feel.

You’re having a conversation with your wife, and you slice your finger open with a knife while cutting vegetables.

You bandage it. Out of the blue, the earthquake hits, and your neighbor has a heart attack. The lights of the departing ambulance flash on your stunned face.

You close your eyes.

Even your dreams are filled with frightening specters.

Claire: “The world doesn’t make any sense to me anymore. I mean, what’s going on? There are babies lying around in the streets; there are people living in boxes, there are people ready to shoot you if you look at them. And we are getting used to it. The world is so nuts it makes me wonder about all the choices that we’ve made.”

* * *

And yet there are epiphanies, moments of profound insight and clarity when it seems another world, another power is breaking into this world of fearsome dread.

A stranger shows you kindness and becomes a friend.

New life unexpectedly comes into your home and marriage.

A traumatic experience transforms your approach to life.

A blind date leads to love.

These positive happenings make you think you should give back a little, help out someone else, get involved, make a difference, even change yourself for the better. But you have to be careful. There are unintended consequences.

* * *

Simon: OK, here it is. I guess I think it’s hard…maybe even dangerous, reaching in and mucking around with other people’s lives. Sometimes there’s a reason they’re doin’ what they’re doin’.

* * *

And so we make our choices. We change, we don’t change. We find a way to survive and go on.

We make connections, we watch them play out. We deal with the crap. We delight when love takes root and grows.

Claire: Everything seems so close together. All the good and bad things in the world. Everything.
I feel it in myself even.

* * *

In the end, we stand, with our little lives, before something as vast as the rocks and cliffs of the Grand Canyon, and we can imagine the ancient stones laughing at our little tragedies and comedies. And somehow, affirming the value of it all.

Simon: So what do you think?

Mack: I think… it’s not all bad.


Grand Canyon (1991)
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Written by Lawrence and Meg Kasdan
Starring Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell
Twentieth Century Fox


  1. This is a gem of a film. One of the few that I consider good enough to have saved on my computer. Such an honest look at the good and bad in life and people, and the moments of epiphany are just that and certainly contain echoes of the kingdom of God breaking through into people’s daily lives, making them beautiful amidst the pain and ugliness of the world.

    I wish Christian filmmakers could succeed more in creating films like this one, and Marigold Hotel, that are honest portrayals of the human condition.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I wish Christian filmmakers could succeed more in creating films like this one, and Marigold Hotel, that are honest portrayals of the human condition.

      But that Might Offend the Church Ladies.

  2. Dan Crawford says:

    A week ago, my wife and I watched this film – we had DVRed it off DirecTV because we had nothing better to do. When we later viewed it, we were stunned. My wife’s reaction: “Did Hollywood really make this film?” I said, “This is about as truly a Christian movie as I have ever seen.” I mentioned it to several people at church last Sunday – one had seen it years ago and he said it had stayed with him ever since. It is one of the best films I have seen – not only for its humanity but for its willingess to raise the Big Questions. And now you write about it. A God-incident surely.

  3. Mildly related. The question, “What would Jesus do?”, was only valid when He walked the earth; a question to be asked by his contemporaries. The question to be asked now is, “What is Jesus doing?”. To use some physics language, the light will go on when our waves are in phase with His waves. If they are out of phase, darkness. Our individual, vital, union, apart from anything we are striving to do, brings real light to a terrible world. Our ‘being’ in union with Christ is the beginning of healing. What we are right now is infinitely more important than what we do. Doing will follow being.

    • Maybe not so mild in relation. I started by saying that because I had been pondering that thought prior to this post and thought maybe I was shoehorning it in but after rereading the end of the post, starting with Claire’s statement, I think it is quite in keeping.