Laurel Canyon

"OK"

Laurel Canyon Review


There's a lot of curious cross-national casting going on in Lisa Cholodenko's "Laurel Canyon," a dysfunctional family dramedy about a lifestyle collision between a pot-smoking, fast-living record producer and her solemn, starchy Cambridge-grad son.

Jane, the party-hardy, pushing-50 mom, is played with flaky roach-clip laissez-faire by the droll Frances McDormand -- who is the only person in the cast using her own accent.

Brit Christian Bale ("American Psycho," "Reign of Fire") puts on an American brogue to play Sam, the son endlessly irritated by his mom's lax attitude toward life, who nonetheless returns to her swimming-pool and music-studio hideaway in the Los Angeles hills, along with his fiancée, when he accepts his first residency at an area psychiatric hospital.

The beautiful Kate Beckinsale ("Serendipity"), who is also English, plays blue-blood bride-to-be Alex from New England, a genetics grad student working on her dissertation and suffering from inborn ennui -- which is put to the test when she's enticed down the rabbit hole of Jane's alluring rock'n'roll lifestyle.

Cast as Jane's swaggering, 16-years-younger rock-star boyfriend from England is American actor Alessandro Nivola ("Mansfield Park," "Jurassic Park III"), whose character further distracts Alex from her genomes paper and her buttoned-down existence. Meanwhile Irish actress Natascha McElhone ("The Truman Show," "Solaris") does the same to Sam, playing a flirtatious Israeli hospital resident who wears her sexuality on her sleeve.

I'm sure there's an interesting story behind all this accent-swapping, but the novelty of it is probably distracting only to those who know all these actors well (i.e. movie critics). Of larger concern to most moviegoers may be the fact that the film is well-acted but unadventurous in its allegorical depiction of temptation and personal growth.

Cholodenko ("High Art") sets the stage with the opening scene of Sam and Alex having routine, goal-oriented sex, then sets them up to both discover conveniently simultaneous external attractions.

Sam tries to resist sexy McElhone's coy come-ons. "Sarah, I think we should take the high road...sublimation," he tells her. "That's not very honest," she replies, "and not very satisfying." Meanwhile, Alex's inhibitions are dropped far more easily, almost culminating in a three-way tryst with Ian and Jane.

Bale and Beckinsale are well matched as a bottled-up young couple hitting a rough patch due to external stimuli. As he's being driven to live conservatively by a burning desire to be nothing like his mother, she's discovering a mild cache of wild oats she never knew she had. McDormand is especially good, exposing the selfish shortsightedness of her character's free spirit while maintaining a suppressed insecurity beneath it all. And Nivola makes a convincing devil-may-care rocker, both in out-sized personality and vocal ability.

But "Laurel Canyon" is held back by its predictable story arc, by overt metaphors (Alex's dissertation is on the sex lives of fruit flies) and by symbolism that betrays a lack of sophistication at the script level (Alex abandons her designer track suit to go jogging in one of Jane's ratty old concert T-shirts), which good performances can only partially overcome.

Cholodenko's characters remain three-dimensional and easy to care about, but they're often hard to sympathize with. I mean, if Sam can't stand his mother, why did he want to move back to Los Angeles in the first place?



Laurel Canyon

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 5th June 2003

Box Office USA: $3.6M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Production compaines: Sony Pictures Classics, Antidote Films, Good Machine

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 75 Rotten: 35

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jane, as Sam, as Alex, as Sara, as Ian McKnight, Lou Barlow as Fripp, Russell Pollard as Rowan, Imaad Wasif as Dean, Mickey Petralia as Mickey, as Claudia, Alexandra Carter as Darla, Michelle DeMirjian as China, as Wyatt, Dennis Howard as Mr. Elliott, Catherine McGoohan as Mrs. Elliott

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.