Having grown up in San Francisco, I have long yearned to see films that are quintessentially San Franciscan in character.
Most films shot here show off local landmarks as a shortcut to high production value or simply to provide atmosphere to their story. While there's a vibrant and tight-knit film community in the Bay Area, San Francisco has oddly not developed its own film aesthetic. Perhaps it's partly due to its proximity to Hollywood or to the local focus on documentaries rather than narrative films.
Yes, the occasional filmmaker has succeeded in using San Francisco as a backdrop to full effect as with Alfred Hitchcock's iconic use of landmarks in Vertigo (1958) and Peter Yate's famous car chase in Bullitt (1968). But, again, they were not local filmmakers. For them, San Francisco served as a mythical character far from the reality of its complex and ever-evolving daily life.
The latest stand-out disappointment was Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine (2013). Though I enjoyed the film for its usual Allenesque neuroses, I did not recognize a single character as being local. Instead, they were all translated versions of New York types. This made for a jarring viewing experience. While Cate Blanchett's character was a Blanche DuBoisesque fish-out-of-water, I felt San Francisco was water-with-strange-fish. While the drama worked, the location's character was completely missed.
San Francisco is just too complex of a city for any non-local to capture. And few locally based filmmakers have made a significant enough body of work set in the City to flesh out a San Francisco aesthetic. Perhaps the day will come when this is no longer true. Until then, I'll continue to be on the look-out for the quintessential San Francisco film.