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A Landmark Film : The Valley Stars in ‘2 Days,’ but Portrayal Gets Mixed Reviews

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The San Fernando Valley is just over the hill from Hollywood. Indeed, with the shift of the industry’s offices and studios, it can be argued the Valley is Hollywood now.

Several major studios--including Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal--call it home. And it has often been seen in films and TV shows from “Casablanca” to “Lassie” as someplace other than itself.

Still, despite its location, the Valley rarely gets its name in lights by figuring prominently in the title of a motion picture and appearing as itself--1983’s “Valley Girl” being an exception.

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But with the opening of MGM’s “2 Days in the Valley” Friday, there was no mistaking which Valley the title refers to.

Starring Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels, Glenne Headly, Marsha Mason, Paul Mazursky and James Spader, the film opened at 769 theaters nationwide as well as in the Valley itself.

And the big question for some local residents at the front of the line Friday was: Would the film heap glory or contempt on their home?

As with most things artistic, the answer was in the eye of the beholder. Reactions ranged from the patron who feels it made the Valley look like a “festering cesspool” to a North Hollywood woman who called the movie a “flattering portrayal.”

About 40 people came to the lunch-hour matinee at the Mann theater on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. Most said they found the film entertaining, especially when it came to seeing so many areas they know.

“There were a lot of Valley landmarks,” said D. Armstrong, who caught the show with his wife, Marla Toledo. The Valley looked “glittering,” Toledo added.

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Familiar sights include Topanga Canyon, Coldwater Canyon, Mulholland Drive, the LAPD’s Valley headquarters in Van Nuys, Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, the Studio City golf course and parts of Ventura Boulevard. Only one scene, a brief shot of the VA cemetery in West Los Angeles, did not take place in the Valley.

Valley patriots did get their say through a character who, midway through the film, says: “This is a nice place to live and I want to keep it that way.”

“It was an upscale, elite portrait,” said Elizabeth Manzo of Sherman Oaks. “I didn’t feel the stereotypes.”

But the film was not without passing references--some said knocks--from characters who noted the Valley’s oppressive summer heat and the belief that the city dwellers over the hill view them as uncool dimbulbs.

“In my experience . . . a loser has more honor than a winner,” remarks a suicidal character at one point. The “loser” reference struck Tarzana resident Norman Shulman as a metaphor for how the Valley is viewed by the rest of Los Angeles.

Others saw very little to take to heart in the shoot-’em-up film about a couple of hit men that has been compared to Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”

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“Basically, this is social satire,” said Jonathan Grossman, an aspiring actor from Woodland Hills. “People in the Valley are basically decent, average people. If they are sensitive to criticism, maybe that’s their own personal issue.”

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