LA without a Map

UK/France/Finland 1998

Reviewed by Melanie McGrath


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

After a chance meeting in a Bradford cemetery with Barbara, a young American actress, aspiring writer Richard Tennant breaks off his engagement, quits the undertaking business and heads off to LA to find true love with Barbara. But once there, Richard finds he has a rival in Patterson, a rising film director, who promises to take Barbara away from her job waitressing and make a star of her.

Moving into an apartment in a seedy part of town, Richard starts work with his oddball musician neighbour Moss cleaning swimming pools. In his spare time he concentrates on winning Barbara. Moss, meantime, falls for Barbara's best friend Julie and the foursome drive off together for a weekend in Vegas where Richard and Barbara wed. Back in LA Richard finds himself a hot-shot agent, Takowsky, who enthuses over Richard's script for a film called Oozy Suicide. Barbara auditions for a choice film role. But Barbara discovers the film's director is Patterson and soon she starts dating him again. Desperate to win back his wife, Richard tries to talk to Barbara at a party, but things go from bad to worse and Richard is arrested for harassment. Takowsky comes to the rescue, bails Richard out and sends him back to England.

Richard is back conducting funerals in Bradford when Barbara appears with a contract for the film rights to Oozy Suicide. She has finally seen through Patterson and has come back to England to make a new start with Richard.


Apparently, LA without a Map is a romantic comedy. And, indeed, there are two romantic moments in this film: the first when Richard and Barbara look out across a morbid graveyard to the bright lights of Bradford; the second, when Richard finds himself alone looking out across another set of bright lights to the moral graveyard of Los Angeles. And there are two comic moments, both from movie agent Takowsky. He responds to Richard's novel by saying, "We call them treatments here," and later insists on using a hankie to pick up a prison phone.

If these four moments are sufficient to convince you LA without a Map is a romantic comedy, then read no further. If not, then let me say that this film fails on so many levels, to list them all on paper would be to cause global deforestation. We'll begin at the top, with genre. Aside from romance and comedy, the romantic comedy presupposes that, whatever their complexities, the protagonists emerge at the end as two more or less sympathetic people who make a winning sort of couple. Surely what the genre cannot accommodate is a heroine of such irritating superficiality, such infantilised passivity, that you wouldn't wish her on Donald Trump, even with a prenup. We've seen such 'heroines' before - A Life Less Ordinary had one in Cameron Diaz's character. They may well be the immature man's wet dream, but to the rest of us they're a pain in the arse. "I knew she was trouble the moment I set eyes on her," says our hero and anyone versed in the genre could fill in the rest.

The script (written by Richard Rayner, author of the original autobiographical novel, and writer/director Mika Kaurismäki, brother of the more famous Aki) appears to suffer from split-personality disorder. Whole scenes are devoted to a single laboured punchline, while the marriage of hero and heroine (a big event, you would think) happens in such a rush shotguns are nearly visible. Cliché piles on banality to produce such lines as, "Twelve of these and you really know you've had a drink," and "When I get married I want it to mean something!" There is much in the execution that is simply sloppy. Time is sloppily elastic. Bradford is not "10,000 miles" from LA and an amplified acoustic guitar does not sound the same as an electric one.

References to directors Jim Jarmusch and Andrei Tarkovsky seem pretentious, cameos by Johnny Depp, Anouk Aimée and the Leningrad Cowboys equally so only adding to the general air of desperation. Even David Tennant's easy, confident performance and competent back-up from the supporting cast (with the exception of Vincent Gallo, who overplays) fail to take this film out of the doldrums. LA without a Map is one piece of celluloid that deserves to get lost.


Julie Baines
Sarah Daniel
Pierre Assouline
Richard Rayner
Mika Kaurismäki
Based on the novel Los Angeles without a Map by
Richard Rayner
Director of Photography
Michel Amathieu
Ewa J. Lind
Production Designer
Caroline Hanania
Sebastien Cortella
©Los Angeles Without a Map Ltd
Production Companies
A Dan Films (London)/Euro American Films (Paris)/Marianna Films (Helsinki) production in association with the Arts Council of England/Baltic Media/the Yorkshire Media Production Agency/the Finnish Film Foundation
With the participation of British Screen and BSkyB
Co-produced by CLT-UFA International
Developed with the support of the European Script Fund and the Nordic Film & TV Fund
This film has been supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England
Finance provided by British Screen through its subsidiary the European Co-Production Fund (UK)
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund
Executive Producer
Deepak Nayar
Line Producers
US Unit:
Brent Morris
Euro American Films:
Guy Marignane
Mika Kaurismäki
Production Co-ordinators
US Unit:
Maria De La Torre
UK Unit:
Julia Bennett
Dan Films:
Em Muslin
Euro American Films:
Jorane Castro
Sophie Balagayrie
Vincent Gnemmi
Marianna Films:
Minna Väisänen
Production Managers
US Unit:
Brigitte Mueller
UK Unit:
Shellie Smith
Location Managers
US Unit:
Jeremy Alter
UK Unit:
Noola Delany
Post-production Supervisor
Guy Ducker
Assistant Directors
US Unit:
T. Bird
Melissa V. Barnes
Pamela Altieri-Paterra
Rebecca MacDonald
UK Unit:
Ian Ferguson
Matt Baker
Ben Johnson
Script Supervisors
US Unit:
Sylvie Michel-Casey
UK Unit:
Danuta Skarszewska
Randi Hiller
Steve Brooksbank
Vanessa Pereira
Simone Ireland
Script Consultant
Bill Gorgensen
Additional Camera
US Unit:
Pia Tikka
US Unit Steadicam
Bruce Alan Greene
Digital Effects
The Film Factory at VTR
Special Effects
US Unit:
Absolute Effects
Ron Ambro
UK Unit:
Emergency House
Graphics Designer
US Unit:
Regina Lee Herve
Art Directors
US Unit:
Tracey L. Gallacher
UK Unit:
Andrew Munro
US Unit Set Designer
Will Batts
Set Decorators
US Unit:
Marcia Calosio
UK Unit:
Emma McDevitt
Costume Designer
Yasmine Abraham
Costume Consultant
US Unit:
Magali Guidasci
Costume Supervisor
US Unit:
Maeve Deming Guesdon
Key Make-up Artist
US Unit:
Raqueli Dahan
Make-up Artist
UK Unit:
Carole Williams
Key Hairstylist
US Unit:
Nicholas Serino
UK Unit:
Scott Beswick
Main Title Design
Pia Tikka
Janice Mordue
General Screen Enterprises
Music Performers
Sebastien Cortella
Jean-Paul Long
David Salkin
Music Supervisor
Diana Graham
Music Mixers
Isabelle Martin
Leningrad Cowboys:
Matti Hukkanen
"All Day and All of the Night" by Ray Davies, performed by The Rascals; "Floating" by/performed by Mikko Lankinen; "Delayrium" by Matti Pitsinki, performed by Laika and the Cosmonauts; "Groovin' on the Bus" by Nyrobe Cormier, Arden Lo, performed by Mista Taboo; "Colors", "Woman", "Za-Za-Zu-Zi-Dub" by Darek Malejonek, performed by Houk; "Big Decision", "Reckless" by Colin Devlin, performed by The Devlins; "Creepy Connection" by/performed by Leningrad Cowboys; "A Taste of Honey" by Robert W. Scott, Ray Marlow, performed by The Rascals and Vincent Gallo; "Stars" by Steve Hillier, performed by Dubstar; "Polaroid" lyrics by T. Godding, Janet Wolstenholme, music/performed by Bandit Queen; "California" by Sue Vickers, performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band; "Every Living Day" by Margaret Connell, performed by The Heaters; "My Selfish Gene" by Cerys Matthews, Mark Roberts, Albert Richards, Paul Jones, Owen Powell, performed by Catatonia; "U16 Girls" by Francis Healy, performed by Travis; "Generals" by Joseph A. Jones, Lyvio R. Gay, Lennox Maturine, Roderick P. Roachford, performed by Fu-Schnickens; "The Bullet" by K. Franklin, M. McCarver, performed by Celly Cell; "Beware", "Here I Go" by Leroy Edwards, Michael J. Tyler, performed by Mystikal; "Flying Away" by Marc Lee Brown, C. Franck, Nina Isabela Rocha Miranda, performed by Smoke City; "Someone Like You" by Jussi Penttinen, arranged by Jussi Penttinen, Mauri Sumén, Matti Hukkanen, performed by Leningrad Cowboys; "Rumours" by/performed by Jonathan Butler; "Bog La Bag" by Carlinhos Brown, Celso Fonseca, performed by Carlinhos Brown; "Como Explicante" by Roberto Torres, performed by Trio Jerez; "Squealing" by Miikka Paatelainen, Mari Hatakka, Tiina Isohanni, performed by Mari Hatakka, Tiina Isohanni and Fat Bullets; "You Got Me" by Louise Wener, performed by Sleeper; "Pour tour l'or du monde" by Marcel Mouloudji, Daniel White
Sound Design
Paul Jyrälä
Dean Humphreys
Craig Irving
Wallah - Looping Heads:
John Coella
Michael Franco
Rowena Guiness
Julie Lesende
Patti Tippo
Jonathan Newman
Tracy Hostmyer
Steve Nafshun
Dan Chapman
Scott Jones
Recording Artistes:
Jason Swanscott
Dianne Greaves
John Griffith
Stunt Co-ordinators
Scott McElroy
Andy Bradford
Film Extracts
La vie de Bohème (1992
Lola (1961)
David Tennant
Richard Tennant
Vinessa Shaw
Julie Delpy
Vincent Gallo
Cameron Bancroft
Joe Dallesandro
Anouk Aimée
Saskia Reeves
Steve Huison
Lisa Edelstein
Matthew Faber
Jean-Pierre Kalfon
Leningrad Cowboys
James Le Gros
Tony Peers
Margo Stanley
Mrs Blenkinsop
Malcolm Tierney
Joy's dad
Margi Clarke
Bradford woman
Monte Hellman
Kevin West
Spielberg man
Michael Campbell
young porter
Brent Morris
aviator shades cop
Mista Taboo
Dijon Talton
Joey Perillo
Amanda Plummer
red pool woman
Dominic Gould
music store clerk 1
André Royo
music store clerk 2
Jerzy Skolimowski
Don Ranvaud
man with script
Debra Carroll
lippy blonde
Christa Lang
woman on bus
Michael Franco
Nathalie Huot
tall woman
Joseph Arsenault
jealous man
Robert Davi
Kenneth Hughes
smoking guest
Andy Bradford
Johnny Depp
United Media
9,636 feet
107 minutes 4 seconds
Dolby digital
Colour by
Anamorphic [Technovision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011