Laurel Canyon

Laurel Canyon
Released: October 23 2003
Cast: Frances Mc Dormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Natascha McElhone, Allessandro Nivola
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Genre: Action
Rated: MA 15+ (medium level coarse language, sexual references)
Running Time: 103 Minutes

On the road to the perfect life, Sam & Alex took a little detour.

Laurel Canyon is a diverse area of the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, and among its residents is Jane (Frances McDormand), a famous record producer. Her son, Sam (Christian Bale), and his fiancee, Alex (Kate Beckinsale), both postgraduate medical students, return to the area to complete their studies. Jane has promised them that her home, used as a recording studio, will be vacant and available to them upon their arrival. But when Sam and Alex show up, Jane is still there and is recording a rock band, whose singer, Ian (Alessandro Nivola), she is sleeping with. Tensions rise as Alex becomes attracted to Ian and Sam struggles with relating to his mother's lifestyle.

My Verdict:
Frances McDormand gives a powerful and evocative performance as Jane in Laurel Canyon. Jane has never really been responsible and lives life exactly as she pleases. She admits this to her son, Sam, near the end of the film but also includes that it doesn't mean she didn't love him dearly. They have a very strained relationship, which is tested to the limit by Sam's return to her home. Christian Bale is great as Sam. Torn between being embarrassed by his mothers' behaviour and loyalty to her as her son, he is also trying to steer his fiancé, Alex, away from his mother's lifestyle. Alex is showing signs of abandoning her straight life for a taste of the other side. Kate Beckinsale is a wonderful Alex who never looks like she would indulge in some wild behaviour. She is an almost timid woman with barely a hint of stepping outside the square she lives in.

A lot of the movie takes place at Jane's house in Laurel Canyon, Hollywood, where she has her own recording studio. Her house is a rambling mecca for times past. Jane is involved with the lead singer of the band that she is producing a record for, Ian. Ian is more than happy to accommodate anybody for anything, including seducing Alex with Jane present. It is this relationship that produces a controversial situation that leads to a climatic pivot in everyone's lives. As all their lives entwine, their worlds also falls apart.

Laurel Canyon is also a comedy, black at times, and it will make you think about your relationships with others. It has a soundtrack that fits it to a tee, including the opening and closing songs sung by Allesandro Nivola, (Ian) who is also an accomplished singer as well as actor. The only downside to the movie is the ending, which was rather left up in the air. Perhaps a better resolution may have fixed this minor flaw in an otherwise funny, enjoyable and smart movie. See it to see Frances McDormand at her best.

- Christina Bruce